Devil's Sis was one of four horses seized from Jill Burnell. The broodmare died in 2014 from colic, according to authorities.
A federal judge in California dismissed a civil case brought against the Marin Humane Society and nine other defendants by a convicted animal abuser.
Hunter/jumper breeder Jill Burnell filed suit in December 2014. The complaint alleges her constitutional rights were violated after four of her horses were seized from her Gray Fox Farm beginning in late December 2012 after a stallion fight.
The suit names the local humane society, Marin County, and eight individuals as defendants. Attorney Maggie Weems filed the claim seeking $15 million on behalf of Burnell, and her husband, Alex.
Weems represented the Burnells in the criminal case after the horses were seized. Jill Burnell pleaded guilty to misdemeanor animal cruelty.
Marin Humane answered the plaintiffs’ with a motion to dismiss that argued the complaint failed to state a claim. The defendants say the suit is a transparent attempt at retaliation and witness intimidation.
Judge Jacqueline Corley granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss. The Order states the “plaintiffs’ complaint falls short of the pleading standards set forth in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and well established federal law…” Specifically, Judge Corley writes that the complaint fails to allege how the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights were violated since it doesn’t identify each defendant’s role.
The court is allowing the plaintiffs to file a second amended complaint against all of the defendants, except Albert Burnham. He is the administrative hearing officer who decided the propriety of the Marin Humane Society’s seizure of Burnell’s horses. “As he made findings and fact and conclusions of law… and therefore served an adjudicative role, he is titled to absolute judicial immunity,” the document states.
The judge dismissed the case against Burnham with prejudice.
The Burnells have until August 4th to file their amended complaint against the remaining defendants.