Canine Justice

     Who will speak for the dog?
     No, not a voiceover. I’m talking about legal representation.
     After all, children, senile people, corporations, and estates have lawyers looking out for them. Are dogs all that different?
     Before you say no, consider that the dog may have millions of dollars to protect.
     Ponder the case of Conchita, a chihauhau previously owned by a Miami heiress named Gail Posner. The owner left Conchita a $3 million trust fund and an $8.3 million mansion to live in. (See the news story.)
     If you haven’t heard the story, you’ve probably guessed what happened next – the woman’s son sued to challenge the trust. The lawsuit claims Posner’s staff exercised undue influence over her so they could keep their jobs (along with some big inheritances).
     What the lawsuit didn’t do is bring up what seems to me to be the real question here: did Conchita exercise undue influence over Gail Posner?
     Those of you who own dogs or are owned by dogs should think about this seriously. Are you really in control of the situation? Does the dog not make constant demands? Don’t you eventually yield to those demands?
     There are law practice and strategic considerations on multiple sides of this case. If you represent the son, should you be naming Conchita as a defendant? Is it malpractice to omit such an obvious culprit?
     If you represent the defendants, shouldn’t Conchita be brought in as a cross-defendant?
     If you’re the judge and you can see how this matter obviously directly affects Conchita’s interests (and livelihood), are you not obligated to appoint independent counsel for the dog?
     If you are that independent counsel, do you argue that Conchita is a good girl – what a good girl – or do you try to claim the “owner” had a mind of her own?
     Should treats be brought to court?
     I’m hoping the California Bar Journal considers this for a future continuing legal education lesson. We need to know this stuff.
     YOU CAN’T WIN. Be careful what you wish for.
     I just got a new set of fine-print rules from one of my credit card companies the other day and noticed an interesting thing – I’m no long required to arbitrate disputes. I can go to court.
     Um. Maybe not.
     We’ve been told for years that arbitration is bad for consumers because the arbitrators get picked by the financial institutions and, possibly, could have a bit of a bias.
     Now, when we’ve got all sorts of court cutbacks and foreclosures clogging the system, I get to go to court if I want to and maybe, just maybe, get a hearing in less than five years or so.
     We get reform when it’s timely.
     HARASSMENT. And now the first installment of a new irregular column feature. OK, most of the features here are irregular, but this one will appear from time to time.
     These are excerpts from form requests for orders to stop harassment. Here’s this week’s item:
     “Work address: Strip bar in Downtown L.A…..
     “Why are you filing in this court? Very violent Manic depressed, By Polar woman with a bad temper.”
     They get that way because of the cold.

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