Judge Sues Over Neighbor's Urinating Cat, but With a Twist

The case records ended up sealed, and a law professor is trying to reverse that
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 8, 2018 10:45 AM CDT
Updated May 13, 2018 6:47 AM CDT
We hope no urine was involved in the making of this stock photo.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – It falls under the umbrella of typical neighborly quarrels: Homeowner 1 is angered at Homeowner 2, whose cat is peeing on Homeowner 1's back porch. What elevates the argument occurring in Spokane, Wash., isn't just that a lawsuit was involved—but that it was sealed. The Los Angeles Times has the story, in which Homeowner 1 happens to be Spokane County Superior Court Judge Michael Price, who alleged his neighbor's cat wasn't deterred by the fence between the two homes and was making his back porch reek of urine and unusable. Price reportedly sought a restraining order against Jennifer Tanaka-Fees in order to restrain her cat, and that became the lawsuit, which has been settled—and the whole thing was sealed in November.

Now UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh is trying to reverse that after learning about the case from Tanaka-Fees' lawyer. He tells the Times he "found no justification for the sealing," which he sees out of step with the First Amendment. A hearing on Volokh's motion to unseal the case records hit a roadblock Friday when Judge Patrick Monasmith, who originally sealed them, recused himself over a conflict of interest with Price's attorney, Bob Dunn, reports the Spokesman-Review. A new judge will be put on the case. In the meantime, the Spokesman-Review quotes Dunn as saying the records needed to be sealed to keep Price's address from vengeful criminals whom Price has sentenced. "He's presided over some of the most notorious murder cases in Spokane County in the past few years," Dunn said.

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