Law Review: San Francisco dog mauling case continues in courts |

Law Review: San Francisco dog mauling case continues in courts

The San Francisco dog mauling case is taking on a life of its own. Robert Noel and Marjorie Knoller, presently residing in San Francisco County Jail, were sued by Sharon Smith, long-time partner of the victim of the dogs Hera and Bane, owned by Paul “Cornfed” Schneider and Dale Bretches, the imprisoned owners of the dogs.


It was widely assumed by many, including your humble writer, that Smith would be thrown out of court because California law does not allow wrongful death suits by partners as opposed to spouses. But nothing is normal about this case.

A San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled that while Smith was not a “spouse” under California law, Smith was entitled to equal protection under California law because State law did not permit Smith and Whipple, as a lesbian couple, to wed. It may be the fact that Noel and Knoller represented themselves in the case had something to do with the outcome.

Mark my words: Given California law, Sharon Smith will lose her case trying to recover damages from Noel and Knoller at the Court of Appeals level.

On the side, or should we say as part of the side show, Cornfed and Bretches have asked to be joined as defendants in the Smith suit. They want to be sued to be given a chance to defend themselves according to their handwritten motion filed with the court.

San Francisco Assemblyman Carole Midgen has sponsored a bill in response to the Whipple mauling death that would confer traditional spousal rights on domestic partners and create a statewide domestic partner registry. Word on the street is that the bill will pass, but it may get ugly in Sacramento.

The bill has even been amended to be retroactive so that Sharon Smith’s lawsuit against Noel and Knoller will be preserved, but Smith and Whipple were not registered under San Francisco’s domestic partnership program and that may be fatal to her case.

Noel and Knoller’s landlord has also been sued, which for landlords should be a “heads up” to be aware of your tenant’s activities.

We are not done. As you recall, the principal attacking-dog Bane was put down soon after the incident. Hera, the other dog, has been in quarantine and was scheduled to be executed.

But a Berkeley attorney has sued, claiming that Hera was not given due process. The attorney, who is either bored, broke or making a name for himself, or all three, complains that dogs are more than property. I wonder if an interpreter is needed for cross-examination?

Let me be so brazen as to suggest that Hera will not be given traditional due process and will face her execution.

Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter/Simon, with offices in Truckee and Reno. He may be reached at or at the firm’s web site

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