Having been entangled in the Los Angeles court system for the past three years, on top of budget cuts no less, I can tell you that it is very difficult to find “justice” in the Justice System.
For those who haven’t been following our , my husband Troy and I adopted our dog Stitch years ago, only to later have the guy who claims to have previously owned him (but has no proof) sue us for over $25,000. Last year, we went to trial. The guy didn’t win a dime from us, but the judge did award him custody- due to a 200 year old law called the Lost Property Statute. “If you left your bicycle at the beach,” the judge said, “and then three weeks later you saw someone else riding it, you’d expect them to return your bike to you.” And we responded with the obvious. “Stitch is not a bicycle. He is a member of our family. And we would never leave him abandoned on a road like this guy apparently did.” We lost, then appealed, and here we are a year later.
Last Wednesday, July 11th, the appellate division of Los Angeles Superior court filed a preliminary ruling, declaring that they are upholding the Chatsworth Superior court ruling (meaning we LOST again) due to a technicality in paperwork (the fact that there is no court reporter record, because in lower jurisdiction hearings- there is no court reporter!)
In appeals you can not re-try your case, therefore, a court reporter transcript was not necessary for appeals. Your only way of winning is to prove that the law was misapplied in your ruling. Our attorney Jill Ryther filed a beautiful, comprehensive brief proving the Lost Property Statute was misapplied in our case- as it should not apply to family pets. She used numerous other cases to support her argument. Basically the judges refused to even read it. They knew a month ago, when they postponed our first hearing date, that we had no court reporter. Why did they delay our case, only to throw it out later? My opinion- this is politics, plain and simple.
Every judge we’ve dealt with (and there have been four, total) has tried to sidestep this issue. Overturning a centuries-old law is a controversial, boat-rocking move, and none have been bold enough to take it on.
We were terribly depressed last week. But then a miraculous thing happened. People all over the country began contacting us, supporting us. Don’t give up! They said. We’ve got your back. Donations for our legal fund began to come in. People sent photos of their pets in solidarity with Stitch (now posted on Stitchy’s facebook page). We knew then that we could, and must, continue to fight. People all over the world are invested in this. A win for Stitch is a win for pet owners everywhere.
Shortly after, Fox 11 news contacted us and wanted to feature our story. On Friday, July 13, we were on the news. See link to watch our segment (and hear Stitchy snoring through it). Also, the L.A. Times contacted me and said they will be running our story.
Our attorney is filing a writ to the higher court- the Federal Appeals Court. Stitch is currently in our possession and that is where he will stay. We will never give up on him!
We want pet lovers everywhere to know that their dogs and cats can not be ripped from their families by some stupid antiquated law which equates our dogs to property, like a bicycle. Our dogs are not property! Troy and I will continue to fight until the courts hear us.