'If you don't buy my foal I'll sue you!' The story of a possibly fake sale transaction.

*See Photo Description Below

I've noticed a number of you horse bloggers are welcoming new foals to your homes and farms!  Congratulations!  Four years ago this month our latest 2 babies were born; funny we still call them babies!  Though bred for polo, Sophie is showing excellent potential to be a young adult hunter (the quarter-horse/Thoroughbred blood mixed wonderfully with an Argentine Criollo stud!)  The other filly has great athleticism, but may not be a "forever" member of our horse family like the first.  If we were ever to sell her, we will certainly have the contract in writing!  Have a look at this situation....

A horse breeder offered to sell a colt to his neighbor and subsequently received a note in which the neighbor agreed to pay the agreed upon purchase price for the colt.  The note was addressed to the horse breeder and contained the neighbor's alleged signature.  When the horse breeder attempted to set up transfer of the colt, the neighbor denied that she agreed to purchase it.
In a breach of contract action against the neighbor, the horse breeder offers into evidence the note.  The horse breeder testifies that he is familiar with the neighbor's handwriting and recognizes the signature on the note as being hers.

Assuming appropriate objection by the neighbor, who claims that she did not sign the note, what will the trial court do?  Will they admit or exclude introducing the note into evidence?

They will Admit the note!  However, the judge will also instruct the jury that it is up to them to decide whether the note is authentic.

This is done because of a very strict rule that before anything can be admitted into evidence, civil or criminal case, the item must be authenticated by proof showing that the item is what the proponent claims it is.  In this horse breeder example, because he says he is familiar with the neighbor's handwriting and that he recognizes the signature on the note to be that of the neighbor is sufficient to support a jury finding of genuineness- which is the necessary standard for admitting evidence.

Introducing anything into evidence can be simple once you know the rules, but also terribly difficult and complicated when there are multiple issues playing against each other.

Interestingly enough, I know a police officer who attempted to enter into evidence a blood alcohol report against a teenager who had been driving intoxicated, but the officer failed to lay a foundation for the report (which must be done when the piece of evidence is hearsay).  To lay a foundation the police officer needed to have had the person who created the report present to authenticate it, so the teenager ended up getting to go without penalty!

Lesson to be learned:
Always have your sales contracts in writing, preferably with legal representation for each party, and/or signed by a neutral witness!  
If you fear being the defendant in such an action, be sure to have a meticulous habit of crisp, clean, and legal documentation of every equine transaction to prevent attacks from false claimants.

{The photo is of my husband with Negrita,  Sophie's dam.  Negrita gave birth to her only foal later in life, around 20, and unfortunately is no longer with us.  But we are happy to have her live on through her great baby! }

Financing your equine activity with a Mortgage. And, pink horses?!

Equine Law is obviously a very specific field of law.  However, the areas of applicable law within the field are nearly unlimited.  Often, any legal issue that involves a horse, even an ever-so-thin connection, can fall under the umbrella of equine law.

Take for example The Mortgage,
an ever-familiar financing tool.

The Spanish Riding School of Vienna, a rather expensive facility for the average horse owner to build and maintain!

Here is an example how a mortgage relates to the horse world:

Assume that William mortgages his polo horse farm to the First National Bank, who recorded promptly.  Six months later, William grants an easement to his neighbor Harry, to use a road across his horse farm, which was recorded promptly.  The next year, William took out a second mortgage with the Second National Bank, which was recorded promptly.  A few months later, William gives his father a 3 year lease to stable his horses on the farm, which was recorded promptly.  Subsequently, William's financial affairs suffered significant setbacks leaving him unable to make payments to Second National Bank, although he was able to make payments on the mortgage to First National Bank.  Second National Banks foreclosed on its mortgage.

At the foreclosure sale of William's horse farm, will the purchaser take the property subject to the mortgage held by First National Bank? Yes!
Subject to the easement held by Harry? Yes!
Subject to the lease made with William's father? No!

Why? Because of basic mortgage law: On foreclosure, ALL junior interests (liens, easements, leases, etc) are eliminated in the foreclosure of a senior mortgage.

I know following the chain of interests can be dreary, but it is a significant issue for many horse owners; horses for business or horses for pleasure may call for some kind of financing encumbrance, and it is important to learn how they work (or have an equine attorney help you through the process!)

Of course my example is just the tip of an enormous mortgage iceberg, but I've found in studying for the bar that many of the questions quizzing different legal rights and remedies use the example of a horse ranch!

I know mortgages and encumbrances can be a little dense, so let me leave you with a bit of news that relates to equine law:

No, it isn't your monitor; those horses are truly dyed pink, for the alleged purpose of Selena Gomez's new music video.  I'm not really sure who Ms. Gomez is, however, she caused a stir in Hollywood for alleged animal rights violations by submitting the horses to dye.
The Gomez camp claims that "non toxic vegetable based powder paint" was used, and that horse welfare was ensured by both providing proper care and the presence of a supervising Humane Society officer.

This of course presents an opportunity to discuss the divide between animal rights activists and animal welfare activists, but for now I'll leave you with these life-size examples of a My Little Pony!

One stride closer to the finish line

Finally! The degree of juris doctor was conferred upon me on Saturday; I am officialy a law school graduate! 
However, adding "J.D." to the end of my name is only part of the task to becoming an attorney; I now have the bar exam in July (a consecutive 3-day, 6 hour a day exam, so I may not be writing many blog posts this summer!)

Today I began my bar preparation class, which entailed 7 hours of practice exams and lectures in a room full of several hundred other anxious candidates.

At the end of one long Tort multiple choice exam was a question that piqued my flagging interest, and I thought I would put it to you, my readers, to test your basic legal knowledge!
(This question came from the national multiple choice exam, so jurisdictional differences should not be taken into account)

Question 25
A horse breeder owned a small but exceptionally well-tended horse farm for many years.  The county in which the farm was located had no zoning or land-use regulations, but that had never been a problem until a half-acre plot of land next to the farm was recently purchased by a salvage company.  The company let the weeds grow high on the land and it became littered with smelly, unsightly garbage and rusting metal.  The breeder complained to the company on several occasions but was ignored.  In addition, business started to taper off at the breeding farm due to the noise, smells, and general disarray of the junkyard.

If the breeder brings an action for nuisance against the company, how will the court rule?

(A) For the breeder, because the breeder was a property owner in the area long before the company bought the lot and opened the business.

(B) For the breeder, if he can show a substantial and unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of his land.

(C) For the company, because it is using the land for legal purposes.

(D) For the company, unless the breeder can objectively demonstrate that the value of the farm has declined.


So what do you think?!
I'll post the answer in the comments in a few days!

Happy Derby Day! And, the Science of the Stride

The Run of the Roses! Happy 137th Derby!

Photo by me at Keeneland May 6, 2010

I went out to Keeneland track  in Lexington early Friday morning to watch the horses being breezed; it was wonderful to watch the training, including adjusting strides, switching leads, etc.
The grounds were beautiful, the horses pampered, and we even saw Bob Baffert!

I thought this clip (below) would be interesting to all of you, it is part of the science of how the Derby Thoroughbreds will maintain their stride and pace for the duration of the race.  While many lawyers joke they went into law because they failed at science, in fact, there is often quite a bit of scientific knowledge required when handling a case.

For example, we had a speaker at the Equine Conference who is a patent prosecution attorney in Washington D.C.  She helps establish patents for horse blankets and for pharmaceutical drugs.  Both those include an understanding of the natural and physical sciences and math.

Hope you can don your hats and sip your juleps today!

26th Annual Equine Legal Conference

I am at the annual equine legal conference hosted by University of Kentucky this week in Lexington, Kentucky.

Some of the most premier equine attorneys and practitioners have gathered to discuss the latest and most pressing equine legal matters.

When I return home I will do a more comprehensive review of the conference, though with 13 credit hours, the review may have to come in multiple parts!

Topics have included:
Contract drafting to avoid disputes
Collection of Equine Judgments and Competing Equine Liens
Race-track management, especially in light of the economic climate
Risk Management Considerations 
Equine litigation and discovery
The Thoroughbred Auction Process
Congressional updates on legislation affecting the equine world
Recreational Land use and the Equine Activity Liability Act
Copyright Law and Equine Photography
2010 World Equestrian Games legal issues
Immigration Compliance for Equine employers
..... and more!!

I've met with pioneers in the equine field,
and authors of the first equine legal books I ever purchased.
Further, I've men and women who have been my role-models for equine law; after years of only "technological relationships," it is gratifying to see how lovely they are in person.

There are attendees from 24 states and 2 continents!

It is wonderful to see the green pastures, rolling slopes framed in white fencing, and happy, pampered horses- so quintessentially Kentucky!