$1 Million Memphis the Pit Bull Lawsuit Dismissed

Judge rules Lexus Project, group that filed lawsuit against township, does not have ownership of the dog

A judge threw out Friday a $1 million civil action lawsuit against the township of Bloomfield that would have brought Memphis the pit bull one step closer to being adopted.

Judge Walter Koprowski dismissed the suit, filed by the Lexus Project on behalf of dog trainers Jeff and Diana Coltenback, after he ruled the Lexus Project did not have legal ownership of Memphis.

The Lexus Project, a non-profit legal defense organization for dogs, had asked in its lawsuit that Memphis be placed in the care of Robin Mittasch, a trustee and co-founder of the project, Bloomfield Life previously reported. The suit also requested an injunction prohibiting the township from euthanizing, selling or transferring the dog.

"It seems to me that in order for the trust to have standing, there has to be an ownership right. And there is no ownership right … that can be proven," said Koprowski in general equity court Friday morning.

Memphis, a stray dog found in Bloomfield in February, has been in the control of Neighbor to Neighbor Network, a volunteer branch within the Department of Health and Human Services, since September.

The pit bull has been at the center of a months-long battle between the township's Board of Health and Coltenbacks after the dog was taken away from the dog trainers. Memphis had been ruled unadoptable for now after undergoing evaluations by dog behavioral experts.

According to Jones, Memphis is being held in South Dakota, though details on his condition and exact location are not known. Until now, the pit bull's whereabouts had not been disclosed.

Steve Martino and Ronald J. Ricci, the attorneys for Bloomfield township and the Board of Health, respectively, had asked the lawsuit be dismissed because the town has no control over the health department, an autonomous entity.

"The township has no jurisdiction over the dog, health department or animal shelter," said Ricci.

After the hearing, Martino said the dog will remain at the current facility until it is trained to be adoptable.

Jones said further legal action may be pursued for the Coltenbacks to adopt Memphis. But she said she feared the pit bull could be euthanized now without an injunction to protect him.

The Coltenbacks, as well as a handful of Memphis supporters wearing gray and red "Save Memphis" tee shirts, were present in the general equity court for the 50-minute hearing Friday morning.

Jeff Coltenback said he felt "disappointed but not discouraged" by the judge's ruling Friday and vowed to continue to fight for Memphis.

"I've been speaking up for dogs for forever. This one (Memphis) obviously is a lot different," he said fighting back tears. "It's not going to stop us. This is my life. It's what I do – dogs are my life."

Karen Banda November 13, 2012 at 08:57 PM
This is the civil service job description for the Animal Attendant Supervisor, which is the position currently held by Kathleen Georgevich. I do not see the required two years of experience in the feeding and care of animals in her resume which is required for this position. Also, the job description states she may assist with the training of animals. Assist means that she may not train the animals by herself. Why was she allowed to train Memphis? Why is she making behavioral judgments on any animal in the shelter, when according to civil service she is NOT qualified to do so? Why was civil service not notified that she had taken on the role of shelter manager? Could it be that she is not qualified and the township intentionally failed to notify civil service of her job duties? http://info.csc.state.nj.us/jobspec/05486.htm
NM observer November 15, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Wow..reading this and concerned citizen, sure sounds like a Karen Lore or one of her supporters. Not being from the town but have been following this from day one, seems to me the Mayor and town council are basking in the glow of stupidity. I don't believe this animal was transported legally. It's funny but as a past rescue owner when there was a case that went to court I was not allowed to take the animal out of state when there was a court case pending. Next county was allowed but not out of state. Reading the qualifications that were set up for being a person in her position, it absolutely does not look like she was qualified. She was not a trained and licensed animal trainer. That was truly evident. From the nasty comments I heard from your person named Fitzpatrick on the radio show he went on I am surprised this person has a job still much less a raise in pay. To concerned citizen I suggest you hang on to your hat because I don't believe this will go away for a long long time. Your remarks apparently are falling on deaf ears. I am part of the world that is watching..and there are more than just myself. This is more of a God Complex thing than a safety issue. Ms. Lore honestly does need help but I would not call it physical help, there seems to be mental issues on the part of herself and Fitzpatrick.
NM observer November 15, 2012 at 08:05 PM
http://www.njemployeerights.com/case-results/ Seems as though you have more problems than just Karen Lore
Karen Banda November 16, 2012 at 05:35 AM
Karen Lore gets to negotiate with herself. You can't make this stuff up: ww.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=497216793633369&set=a.497216776966704.110161.485125288175853&type=1&theater
debbie sander January 03, 2013 at 10:33 PM
Can we get an update on Memphis?


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