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Calif. Team Beat Animal Cruelty Appeal

San Francisco Partners Reuben Jacobson and Kimberlei Evans, as well as San Diego Appellate Partner Jeffry Miller and Associate Jonna Lothyan, recently persuaded the Ninth Circuit to affirm a motion to dismiss a woman’s complaint alleging that an illegal search and seizure of her home led to her conviction for animal cruelty.

The plaintiff, a self-proclaimed feral cat rescuer, ran a foster home for cats in her home. After receiving complaints regarding the large number of cats kept at the plaintiff’s home and the poor condition of the property, the police department and animal services obtained a search warrant to enter the plaintiff’s property, where they rescued 93 cats and two dogs. The plaintiff was charged with and ultimately convicted of felony animal cruelty.

While the felony charges were pending, the plaintiff sued several entities and individuals involved in the seizure and treatment of the animals, alleging that the search and seizure was illegal and improper. The district court dismissed the plaintiff’s action, finding that her claims were barred as a collateral attack on her pending criminal charges.

While the appeal was pending, the plaintiff was convicted of felony animal cruelty. Thus, we successfully argued that the district court correctly dismissed the plaintiff’s action because her civil challenge of the search and seizure of animals from her home is nothing more than a collateral attack of the criminal conviction, as the search and seizure resulted in the evidence of neglect and failure to properly care for animals that supported the criminal conviction. We also argued the plaintiff’s action was barred by the applicable statute of limitations.

The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the case, holding that the action was barred as a collateral attack.


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