Musings from the Cat Law Bar

Or, dare I say it, "Mewsings"?

Yesterday, I attended the annual meeting of the Connecticut Bar Association at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford.  An expedited arbitration that threatened to consume my life nearly kept me away, but once that was stayed, I pounced on the chance to go.

I always enjoy these events.  I get to talk to people who are passionate about the practice of law, stock up on free pens and coffee mugs, and see the new stuff I must have for my practice.  (WestlawNext, anyone?)

A chat with former Superior Court judge John R. Downey left me pining for the time when I was Connecticut's foremost authority on the Law of Cats.Thumbnail image for bigstock_Contract_And_Cat_2580094[1].JPG

It was a few years and firms ago.  Partner X gave me a new case to run, and I had the pleasure of appearing before Judge Downey for several of its motions.  I cannot say that Judge Downey always made good decisions (because a good decision is, by definition, the decision to agree with me).  But I knew I would be heard by someone who would understand the issues and make the right decision.

Anyway, it was a small case, but it was mine.  And it had the potential to answer the question burning in the hearts and minds of cat lovers everywhere: 

Did humans own their cats, or did cats own their humans?

Now, I'm a dog person and I'm allergic to cats, but I knew a case where I could make my mark when I saw it.  No one else in the firm knew a thing about cat law.  I was going to learn cat law, and become the firm's cat law resource.  I checked the journals:  NOBODY had published a thing on cat law.  And let's face it:  "See Slusarz on Cats" is kinda sweet. 

So, the facts:  a cat shelter took in some cats abandoned by New Orleans residents fleeing from Hurricane Katrina.  As part of their agreement with the Humane Society, the shelter kept the cats for a certain length of time, and then found new homes for them.

Several months later, two New Orleans residents -- humans who thought they owned their cats -- contacted the shelter and demanded the return of the 3 cats.   The shelter, having already found new homes for the kitties, refused.   The humans sued, claiming conversion of cat.  (Yes that's right, the shelter took possession of the kitties and converted them to their own use.) 

This led to hours of research, trying to understand how those humans could assert a property interest in cats they abandoned months ago and, on a more fundamental level, whether cats are even property that a human can own

Dogs were clearly the property of humans, as evidenced by the fact that the government taxes them.  See annual dog license feeBut see Mr. Peabody and his boy Sherman

Yet cats were not taxed.  Hence, cats were not property and, therefore, could not be converted.

More importantly, I proved that cats owned humans. 

Alas, this important legal precendent was never to be adopted; my brilliantly-crafted argument never to be heard; my career as the nation's pre-eminent cat law authority cut short.  We settled the case. 

And not for the 9-cat treble damages payout that I suggested.

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