Last year we reported on a high-profile case of puppycide in Salt Lake City, Utah that brought widespread attention to the plague of cops killing pets. Sean Kendall, the owner of the slain Weimaraner, Geist, posted a viral video of his confrontation with officers at his house shortly after the incident.
Now, one year later, Mr. Kendall is attempting to bring justice to the system, intending to file suit against Salt Lake City and a civil claim against Officer Brett Olsen. But his efforts are hitting a roadblock in the form of a nefarious state law.
Utah statute 78B-3-104, passed in 2008, says that anyone who wants to sue law enforcement must first pay a bond to cover the estimated costs and attorney fees of the officer being sued.
That’s right—before any litigation can proceed, the victim must shell out thousands of dollars to cover the predicted costs to the offending officer. The plaintiff can recover costs if he/she prevails.
The statute reads:
“(1) A person may not file an action against a law enforcement officer acting within the scope of the officer’s official duties unless the person has posted a bond in an amount determined by the court.
(2) The bond shall cover all estimated costs and attorney fees the officer may be expected to incur in defending the action, in the event the officer prevails.
(3) The prevailing party shall recover from the losing party all costs and attorney fees allowed by the court.
(4) In the event the plaintiff prevails, the official bond of the officer shall be liable for the plaintiff’s costs and attorney fees.”
The statute is clearly written to shield police officers and prevent fair access to the court system. Rocky Anderson, the attorney representing Mr. Kendall, summed up its effect:
“It severely undermines the rule of law while letting abusive law-enforcement officers off the hook for their violations of the state constitution and other state legal protections.”
Mr. Kendall’s case is providing an example of how the law denies justice to citizens, as he does not have the money to post the required bond which could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In a noble display of integrity, Mr. Kendall turned down a $10,000 settlement offer from Salt Lake City, after public outcry and demonstrations forced the city to pay attention.
“It would be like, ‘For $10,000 you can break into my backyard and kill my dog.’ That’s not right,” said Kendall.
In an interesting twist, the story is pitting a former mayor against a candidate for mayor. Jackie Biskupski sponsored the bill containing statute 78B-3-104 when she was a state senator, and is now running for mayor. Biskupski makes the faulty claim that her legislation does not change the substance of any previous law, referring to original 1953 law that addresses frivolous lawsuits.
Kendall’s attorney, Rocky Anderson, is a former mayor of Salt Lake City and disputes that claim. He says the old law allowed the court discretion in setting a bond, based on the plaintiff’s financial situation, but the under the new law there is no such discretion.
“[The 2008 law] exacerbates what was already a very unjust, discriminatory situation, and creates enormous obstacles for people to obtain access to the courts to achieve justice.”
While government fiddles with the technicalities of their self-serving laws, Sean Kendall and other pet owners grieve the loss of their beloved pets and find no justice in a system that shields its own from responsibility.
Since the killing of their beloved Geist, the family has started a facebook page to raise awareness.
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