Animal Law

Speaking of the Supreme Court, which Kash visited yesterday, the justices just struck down a 1999 law aimed at banning depictions of animal cruelty — especially so-called “crush videos,” in which women kill animals by stepping on them with fabulous footwear.

The vote was 8-1. The opinion was by Chief Justice Roberts; Justice Alito dissented. For more, see links below.

(Gavel bang: commenters.)

First Amendment left intact [SCOTUSblog]
Supreme Court Strikes Down Law Banning Animal Crush Videos, Cites First Amendment [ABA Journal]
High Court Shoots Down Animal-Cruelty Law [WSJ Law Blog]

If this tiger reminds you of your pet cat, you are an idiot.

There’s a Chris Rock joke about the Siegfried & Roy tiger attack: “That tiger didn’t go crazy, that tiger went tiger.” With that in mind, I bring you this latest decision from the Tenth Circuit, via the National Law Journal:

An insurance company does not have to pay a Kansas family $100,000 for an accident in which a Siberian tiger attacked and killed their daughter during her senior photo shoot, a federal appeals court ruled this week.

On Monday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that Safeco Insurance Company of America does not have to pay damages in a wrongful death suit because the homeowners policy bought by the tiger’s owners excluded coverage for business pursuits.

I’ll admit, it took me a second to appreciate what was going on here. As it turns out, the only actor that behaved reasonably in this situation was the tiger (and the Tenth Circuit)….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Tiger Goes Tiger, Insurance Company Doesn’t Have to Pay”

Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner told the New Yorker he is like his cat, Dinah: "playful, but with a streak of cruelty."

It’s hard to find someone to love who also loves you. It’s a lot easier to find an animal with which to establish a loving relationship. Just make sure it’s not too loving.

Many lawyers are proud pet owners, bringing cats, dogs, small wolves, iguanas, and/or flying squirrels into their apartments and homes. Your ATL editors hold mixed feelings about the four-legged set. Elie and Kash are all in favor of bringing furry things into your bed, though he likes dogs and she likes cats. Meanwhile, Lat dissents.

This brings us to the question for today’s Above the Law roundtable:

What’s the best pet for lawyers?

Your ATL editors debate, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Truth About Cats and Dogs: What’s the Best Pet for Lawyers?”

shamu killer whale.jpgYesterday, a killer whale demonstrated at a SeaWorld in Orlando why it has that name. The Shamu show turned horrific when a male orca named Tilikum killed veteran trainer Dawn Brancheau.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Brancheau was talking to the audience and petting Tilikum’s head, when he grabbed her by the arm and pulled her into the water. After some violent thrashing, the alleged killer whale drowned her.

The Sentinel reports that trainers did not ever get into the tank with Tilikum, because of his murderous past. He’s more like a serial killer whale:

In 1991, Tilikum and two female killer whales dragged trainer Keltie Byrne underwater, drowning her in front of spectators at Sealand of the Pacific, a defunct aquarium in Victoria, British Columbia.

Acquired by SeaWorld the next year to breed with female orcas, he was involved in a second incident in July 1999 when the naked body of a man who had apparently sneaked into SeaWorld after hours to swim with the whales was found draped dead across his back.

In fairness to Tilikum, he’s a majestic animal captured by humans and imprisoned for their amusement and curiosity. How many people would you kill to escape forced mating with a female orca?

An animal rights activist told the Sentinel that Tilikum is “a killer” and should have been set free years ago, and not been kept in contact with humans at SeaWorld.

It sounds like SeaWorld could be in dangerous legal waters…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Whale of a Lawsuit?”

cow wants penis in mouth got milk.jpgHere’s an interesting question. How do we know that animals involved in bestiality don’t actually like it?
This question was recently on the mind of one New Jersey jurist. From the Philadelphia Daily News:

During a bizarre hearing [in Burlington County, NJ], a Superior Court judge dismissed animal-cruelty charges against a Moorestown police officer accused of sticking his penis into the mouths of five calves in rural Southampton in 2006, claiming a grand jury couldn’t infer whether the cows had been “tormented” or “puzzled” by the situation or even irritated that they’d been duped out of a meal.

“If the cow had the cognitive ability to form thought and speak, would it say, ‘Where’s the milk? I’m not getting any milk,’ ” Judge James J. Morley asked.

Got milk? Or milky discharge?

Children, Morley said, seemed “comforted” when given pacifiers, but there’s no way to know what bovine minds thought of Robert Melia Jr. substituting his member for a cow’s teat.

“They [children] enjoy the act of suckling,” the judge said. “Cows may be of a different disposition.”

In its weirdness, this is all very Ally McBeal-ish (although too explicit for that show).
So, how did the prosecutor feel about all of this?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Judge of the Day: James Morley”

Orrick logo.JPGIf Michael Vick can learn to love animals, “be they a dog, or a cat, or … a reptile,” then surely the American courts can’t be far behind.
A couple of weeks ago, we brought you the story of a New Jersey appellate panel which declined to view the family pet as mere property in a divorce proceeding. Now a Virginia court is being asked to award damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress stemming from a pet-icide. The Wall Street Journal reports that there is some high profile pro-bono legal counsel taking up the cause of not treating animals as replaceable goods:

A lawsuit slated to go to trial next week down in Virginia could help redefine the theory — at least in that state — on what how a pet-owner should be compensated if a pet is wrongfully killed. In many states, tort law provides the owner simply gets the replacement value of a pet.
But the plaintiff in the Virginia case, represented pro bono by Orrick partner and former White House counsel Lanny Davis, feels the amount should be much higher in certain circumstances. Davis likened the case to that of a family heirloom, which has worth well beyond its street value.

Go Orrick. Family heirloom status is just the first step. It won’t be long now until I can bring my dog into the Duane Reade with the same disregard for other people’s shopping experience as parents enjoy now with their no spatial awareness/no vocal modulation street urchins.
Either that or we’ll soon see strollers tied up to stop signs up and down the east side of Manhattan.
After the jump, even the defendant in the civil suit agrees that family pets are worth more than their store bought value.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Pet Killers, Beware of Orrick”

Tired Pug.JPGYou’ve heard horror stories about messy divorces where people litigate over the family pet. Traditionally, pets are regarded as just another piece of property to be divided up among the former spouses. But that could be about to change. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

[A] second trial on the custody of the nearly six-year-old brown pooch is set to begin. [Doreen Houseman] plans to testify again that her ex-fiancé broke an oral agreement to let her have the dog after she moved out of their house.
In March, a three-judge appeals panel ordered a new trial, saying Superior Court Judge John Tomasello should not have treated Dexter as just another piece of furniture during the first trial, in Gloucester County, in 2007

Houseman argued against the speciesist system where pets are considered mere property by family courts. Houseman and various animal defense lawyers tried to use the Michael Vick case as precedent:

They suggested the judge should also weigh what was best for the dog. That had been done, they said, with the dogs that belonged to former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, after he was involved in a dog-fighting ring.

The appellate panel declined to go so far as to apply the best interests test to a dog. Apparently, tail wags per minute is not a reliable indicator.
But the panel didn’t have to apply a best interests test. The trial court judge seemed to be just enough of a jerk to give the appellate court grounds to give Houseman a new trial.
More details after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Pet Lovers Take A Bite Out Of Family Court”

chhotu.jpgA court in the Indian state of Bihar is putting a dog on trial. It’s not the first time “Chhotu” has been in trouble with the law. He was sentenced to death in 2003, but he must have a good lawyer, as he managed to get out of the death penalty.
Here’s the tale of doggy-style justice from BBC News:

“The court was compelled to issue a summons to the dog since the police found that it was a threat to peace and feared that it might create a law and order problem,” district official Rajiv Ranjan said.
In court Chhotu appeared to have been on best behaviour.
“Despite the presence of so many people in the courtroom the dog did not bite or bark at anyone,” the canine’s lawyer Dilip Kumar Deepak said in defence of his client.
The case continues and Chhotu has been ordered to appear in court again on 5 August, together with his owner, childless widow, Rajkumari Devi.

Prepare yourself for obligatory terrible dog-related joke…
It sounds like the case is all bark and no bite.
Dog in court for breaching peace [BBC News]

Affirmed race horse racehorse.JPGRecently we’ve been thinking about law-related names for racehorses. The subject came up when we were reading about how Big Brown, the 2008 Kentucky Derby winner, might win the Triple Crown and join the company of Affirmed (pictured) — the last winner of the Triple Crown, in 1978.
Hearing about a racing horse named “Affirmed” led us to start thinking about other legally-themed horse names. A few ideas:
– “Reversed” (or “Reversed and Remanded”)
We liked how it played off of “Affirmed.” But it’s “probably not the kind of message you want to send to the oddsmakers,” said a friend.
– “Cert Denied”
Kinda badass, no? We’ll put it down as a possibility.
– “GVR”
Suggested by another friend, to continue on the Supreme Court disposition theme. “GVR” stands for “Grant, Vacate, and Remand” — which can, depending on the circumstances, be something of a benchslap. But maybe it’s too technical, appreciated only by SCOTUS junkies?
– “Desuetude”
Nominated by a third friend (in the midst of studying for law-school finals). It’s erudite, but a bit short on sex appeal.
Have an idea for a law-related racehorse name, à la Affirmed? If so, feel free to leave it in the comments. If we get enough nominations, maybe we’ll hold a contest. Also, feel free to weigh in on the names previously mentioned, if you strong feelings about any of them.
Update: Please make sure that your nomination complies with these naming rules (posted by a helpful commenter).
Further Update: Okay, we’ve reached the 400-comment mark on this post, so we’re closing the thread. Poll to follow shortly.
More about racehorses and the law, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Legally-Themed Racehorse Names? Your Nominations, Please”

wombat rape Australia New Zealand Above the Law blog.jpgUnless you’ve always wanted an Australian accent. From the Telegraph:

A New Zealand man who claimed he was raped by a wombat and that the experience left him speaking with an Australian accent has been found guilty of wasting police time.

Arthur Cradock, 48, from the South Island town of Motueka, called police last month to tell them he was being raped by the marsupial at his home and needed urgent assistance.

Cradock, an orchard worker, later called back to reassure the police operator that he was all right.

“I’ll retract the rape complaint from the wombat, because he’s pulled out. Apart from speaking Australian now, I’m pretty all right you know. I didn’t hurt my bum at all.”

Wombats are very considerate; they use lots of lube. We learned that on Animal Planet.

[Cradock] pleaded guilty in Nelson District Court to using a phone for a fictitious purpose and was sentenced to 75 hours’ community work….

Wombats are native to Australia and are not found in New Zealand. Although powerfully built and about the size of a small pig, they are very rarely dangerous. There are three species: the widely distributed common wombat and the much rarer southern and northern hairy-nosed wombats.

Now wasn’t that informative? You can bill 0.1 hour to “Professional Development” for reading this.
Man said ‘wombat rape’ led to accent change [UK Telegraph]

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