Monday, June 22, 2009

Operation Slither

Not a legal profession case, but of possible interest is a decision issued last week by the Utah Supreme Court. The plaintiff is an amateur herpetologist with an interest in rubber boa snakes (which are real, not made of rubber). The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources seized 65 of the snakes pursuant to a warrant in an action dubbed "Operation Slither." The snakes were seized as evidence. The authorities had rebuffed an offer from the father of the defendant (who had expertise in rubber boa care that they lacked) to take care for the snakes. The plaintiff was convicted of illegal possession of some of the snakes.

After two and a half years, the plaintiff obtained an order to inspect the snakes. He then learned that all but eight had died in the "care" (the court uses the quotation marks) of the DWR. He sued DWR for damages arising from the untimely demise of the reptiles. The lawsuit was dismissed on immunity grounds that apply to claims of negligence for injuries arising out of the institution or prosecution of judicial proceedings. (Mike Frisch)

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