3 Famous Cases of Pet Inheritance

Through pet trusts or other legal arraignments, pets these days often find themselves the benefactors to lavish fortunes. In extreme cases, pets end up owning millions under the careful supervision of special caretakers and trustees. Here are portraits of three famous animals who received much more than simple love and affection from their past owners.

Gunter IV1. Gunther the Fourth: Countess Protégé and the Richest Dog in High Society

Meet Gunther the Fourth, whose principal merit is one and only – he is an offspring of Gunther the Third, a pure blue blood German shepherd with proper European upbringing and a taste for aristocratic luxury: multiple chamber maids and chauffeurs. By virtue of his semi-royal pedigree, Gunther the Fourth inherited millions from his honorable father, Gunther the Third, who passed away soon after coming into the money himself.

Since then, the Junior’s estate has suspiciously tripled to the reported $373 million. But Junior’s tastes for lavish extravagance are only begging to unfold, and his purchase of a Miami villa from Madonna testifies to this Alsatian’s hedonistic chutzpah… In fact, Junior’s nouveau riche mannerisms should cause grave concerns in the Alsatian high society. Is Junior fully deserving of his “Gunther the Fourth” sobriquet, or is he a Prodigal Son without a return ticket? Is he a canine incarnation of Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones who’d make Earl of Chesterfield’s blush?

Mystery lurks behind Gunther’s family history. As is often the case with high society’s wheel of fortune, a woman’s hand figures surreptitiously into the drama. Junior’s patrilineal gambit – his father’s death followed by Junior’s swift ascension to canine Olympus – has its matrimonial roots. The invisible hand is of none other than German countess, Carlotta Leibenstein, who by passing millions to Senior Gunther, created the extravagant Junior of today – Gunther the Fourth, the richest and the luckiest dog in high society.

2. Tinker the Cat: From Bastardly Origins to Middle Class Virtue

More mystery and drama surrounds the story of trials and tribulations of one poor Tinker, also known as “Tinker the Cat,” “the Puss,” or “Stray Moggie.” Yes Tinker is a cat, and the luckiest living cat indeed. However, Tinker’s life was no catwalk. Of humble origins, Tinker was facing penury, homelessness, and an otherwise rather mice-less life. However, he found a widow and was saved for good by her kindness and subsequent death.

Tinker’s incredible faire la culbute caused much uproar in the press; hence “the Puss” and “Stray Moggie” epithets prompted by jealousy and lack of empathy for Tinker’s sudden change of fortune: his coming into possession of a three-bedroom house and a comfy trust for cat-like trifles. True, Tinker is no royal Gunther. But isn’t the poor chap finally getting a well-deserved and long-sought for bourgeois comfort? The bar sinister on Mr. Tinker’s shield as well as the shortcomings of his unfortunate past do not detract from Tinker’s honor – he is as much a British citizen as any other cat in the Albion.

But wait, Mr. Tinker’s estate comes with some conditions. Apparently the widow was cognizant of Mr. Tinker’s bad habits – traumas of his post-pubescent outdoor feline past – that may occasionally set Mr. Tinker’s moral compass awry. When wild feline instincts overtake Tinker, he could be found roaming neighbors’ roofs in search of risqué encounters, meowing bawdily, and purring incessantly.

What if Tinker stumbles upon the roadblock of a midlife crisis, abandons his respectable settled ways, and becomes a stray tomcat again? Well, the poor chap shall be undone: provisions in the widow’s testamentary documents will disinherit the ungrateful villain. So, puff and purr Mr. Tinker as long as you keep that inside wild feline under tight control! For now, Mr. Tinker carries as a true gentleman: he lives in a peaceful union with a single mom cat taking care of her and her young kitten…purr…

3. Who Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: The King of Pop’s Chimpanzee Institutionalized

Yet, not every story has that cheesy Hollywood happy end, even if it’s the life story of the luckiest protégé of the rich and famous.  If you ever visit the Center for Great Apes, you may be able to spot good old Mr. Bubbles, who is quite the chimp of a fellow. Yet Mr. Bubbles’ bubble has been totally burst. The rightful owner of a share of Michael Jackson’s fortune, the chimp lives in unfortunately humble circumstances as a common inmate of a “sanctuary” facility.

Mr. Bubbles was once Michael Jackson’s favorite and was poised to inherit one million dollars from the King of Pop. What happened to Bubbles? Why did he fall into this dark monkey chasm without even being disinherited? Michael Jackson’s will explicitly provides for Bubbles’ “secure long-term future.”  Answers are nowhere to be found…. We can only hope that Bubbles will be restored in his rights and will come into his rightful inheritance.  After all, that was the King of Pop’s last will.

The End of Transgender Segregation in Sports?

Last year, I wrote about Coy Mathis and other transgender students using the restrooms of the sex they identified with, rather than the sex they were born with. California decided to follow up on the case by passing the School Success and Opportunity Act, or AB 1266. The law, passed in August 2013, allows transgender students in public schools grades K-12 to use any bathroom and locker room the student identifies with, and to participate in any sex-segregated school programs, including athletic teams.

transgender sports AB 1266So far, the controversy over AB 1266 has focused on the parents’ concerns that boys will take advantage of the law by entering girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms. If this occurs, then parents and teachers fear that boys will sexually molest girls or violate girls’ privacy by taking pictures.

Oddly, the other portion of AB 1266 hasn’t received much attention. AB 1266 could erase sex segregation in sports. If a transgender girl wants to play varsity football, AB 1266 could compel the school to include the transgender on the team. The transgender student would have to use the same locker room as the rest of the team, but desegregation of the sexes would be a side effect of AB 1266. The bathroom implications of AB 1266 are unclear, but the state law has already admitted one student, Pat Cordova-Goff, into the Azusa High School girl’s softball team.

Pat might say that she is actually a girl and therefore the team is still all girls. However, the rest of the community might still perceive Pat as a boy even if she believes she is a girl. The team and the coach might see a boy. Parents and neighbors might also see a boy. Opposing teams might worry about fairness if Azusa has a boy on their team.

The potential debate sparked by Pat Cordova-Goff could play out on a national level and in more professional sports. Chloie Jonsson, a transgender athlete, is suing CrossFit for its refusal to allow her to compete in a female fitness competition. CrossFit alleges that being a biological man would give Jonsson an advantage while Jonsson asserts that any advantage would be from physical fitness, not masculine strength.

Given the backlash against Jonsson and AB 1266, transgender rights might be the limit of what the LGBT can achieve. Transgenders, whether they are students or athletes, will be hard pressed to convince the public not to believe what their eyes see. Transgenders must focus on social assumptions about sex and gender before making any sweeping policy changes. Transgenders can win the legal battle, but if they push too hard too fast they could lose the political war.

Police Dogs Evoke New Controversy in Marijuana-Friendly States

From detective show dramas to Jay-Z lyrics, drug-sniffing dogs have become a widely recognized aspect of police work. In the past, these highly trained dogs have been bestowed not only with accolades from law enforcement, but legal status from the Supreme Court as not being an invasion into one’s expectation of privacy, and thus not a “search” for Fourth Amendment purposes.

police dogBut all of that may be changing soon.

Last year, the Supreme Court limited the use of drug sniffing dogs at private residences. While this doesn’t change their ability to sniff freely away at luggage or around cars, the police will need to meet a higher standard of probable cause (or your consent) before letting their dogs get their nose in your business at home. This development was rather monumental, considering that since the 80s police have been able to use police dogs to aid in searching for drugs with limited inhibition.

While limiting the use of dogs will likely not put them out of jobs, states that have legalized marijuana are forced to examine what place, if any, these pooches have with a police force. In Colorado, for example, where persons 21 years and older can legally posses 1 ounce of pot, the K9 units are put in a difficult position. For example, if a police dog alerts an officer to drugs on a person who is lawfully in possession, and that trigger leads to an unconstitutional, seizure, search, or arrest of that person, the police department faces potentially costly liability from violating that individual’s civil liberties.

This may not seem like too big of an issue since it there are many illegal drugs other than marijuana that dogs can detect. This fact, however, only makes the problem more complicated. Police dogs cannot be trained to differentiate between types of drugs by using different triggers. All the dog can do is bark, scratch, and dig when it detects a narcotic. A dog cannot be trained to roll over for cocaine, jump for methamphetamine and sit down for marijuana. The trigger is the trigger, and if it could have been set off by a legal substance, the officer ostensibly lacks probable cause to search. In essence, if someone is possessing several pounds of cocaine, which is illegal, and an ounce of marijuana, which is legal, a competent defense lawyer could get all of the evidence suppressed and the charges dismissed.

There are ways around this conundrum. In Washington, some police forces have stopped training new dogs to detect marijuana. The skill is simply not desired as marijuana is taking a lower priority to other more harmful narcotics. However, the question still remains: What will be done with the older dogs? They can’t unlearn smelling marijuana, and utilizing them for drug sniffing purposes may expose the police force to a myriad of lawsuits and complicated legal issues. Furthermore, even putting the dogs to work in other contexts, like bomb searches or searches for people near residences, may still lead to false triggers for drugs and therefore the potential for liability.

Moreover, these issues raise the question of whether we be using these dogs for drug searching purposes at all? Experts—and even advocates of drug sniffing dogs—admit that there is an alarming frequency of “false alerts,” where poorly trained officers and dogs essentially create probable cause by causing the dog to respond to their hand and not the presence of illegal substances.

These considerations, coupled with the developments in the legal landscape surrounding drugs and dogs, conjure an age-old question: can you teach an old dog new tricks?

Subway “Footlong” Lawsuit Is within Inches of Settling

Last year, the sandwich artists of Subway found themselves embroiled in a handful of legal battles and a potential class action lawsuit. However, it wasn’t over serving bad meat or food poisoning, but rather over the actual size of their subs that they tout as “footlongs.” As it would turn out, these sandwiches only measure up to be about 11 inches, exposing the chain to claims of deceptive sales practices.

subway footlong lawsuitAlmost instantly, business journals and news outlets started to cry “frivolous lawsuit.” After all, they’re sandwiches, who cares? This really can’t be important. Well, federal courts have clearly disagreed. And I have to admit, so do I.

Now nearly a year later, stories have begun to sprout up that a settlement agreement is approaching, with only attorney’s fees left to determine. So what was the big deal? The meat of these lawsuits are heavy allegations of “fraudulent, deceptive or improper advertising, sales and marketing practices.” But if that feels extreme, consider this: Subway averages about $2.85 billion in the sale of their footlongs, making the rough value of what that inch they have duped customers out of close to about $142 million. That’s a lot of dough.

Subway retorts that they use the same weight of dough in each sandwich, and how a loaf of bread bakes, grows, and conforms is difficult to guarantee every time. While that may be true, and it may be hard to get angry at a sandwich store for not always being accurate, if they are aware of discrepancies, they shouldn’t be advertising these subs as “footlongs.” Call them “the bigguns” or “subway cars” or anything other than something that purports to be an actual measurement. After all, I’m sure most people would have less sympathy for a bespoke chair maker who, having advertised as making a great fitting, 24” tall chair that was actually 22” and shoddily made, blamed the uniqueness of the wood for various imperfections. This would be especially true if those imperfections lead to them earning substantial profits off of unsuspecting consumers.

What these legal battles are really about is protecting consumers from companies short changing them in anyway. Regardless of how you feel about these lawsuits, one age old principal remains true: give them an inch, they’ll take a mile. Or, maybe more accurately: give them an inch, they’ll take $142 million.

A Proposal of Punishments for GM

Despite “New” General Motor’s promises, the company looks exactly the same as “Old” General Motors. Federal safety regulators want to fine GM $7,000 a day for failure to respond to federal questions. GM CEO Mary Barra promised new standards and then answered every other question with “We’re still investigating.” Sen. Kelly Ayotte gave the response that most of the victim’s families had on their minds: “I don’t see this as anything but criminal.”

old GM

To be sure, GM is breaking more laws than I can count, if not in letter, than in spirit. For instance, GM’s bankruptcy actually gets around the rule that only individuals can discharge their debts in bankruptcy. All that talk about “new” GM and “old” GM is not metaphor. GM was literally divided into two companies, General Motors LLC and Motors Liquidation. The bankruptcy allowed GM to escape liability for its civil suits by dumping all the claims into Motors Liquidation, a “company” which holds all of GM’s debts, but none of GM’s assets.

Criminal prosecution of GM would be counterproductive at best. Even if the Justice Department could prove that GM officials and employees were guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the only remedy would be lengthy prison sentences. For the families of the victims, that might be sufficient vindication of their loss. In many cases, punishment of the wrongdoer has to be enough. I think we can do better in this case though.

GM hired Kenneth Feinberg before the Congressional hearings. Feinberg is the attorney who set up compensation funds for 9/11 victims, BP Oil Spill victims, and the Boston Marathon Bombing victims. Hiring Feinberg was probably the smartest thing GM, old or new, has ever done. During the Congressional hearing though, CEO Barra reframed from promising victims a compensation fund.

That was the wrong move. The victims deserve a compensation fund, but they deserve more than money. GM engineers should repair the victims’ cars, free of charge, if the victims need car repairs. GM executives should help the children who lost their parents by training the children in business, accounting, or law if the children want to go into those fields. GM insiders should personally make amends to the families they have wronged.

These proposals are radical. They replace lost family members with GM employees and wrongdoers would be active participants in the lives of their victims. There is no judge in the country who would order these types of relationships. However, creating a support network for the auto accident victims would be a more moral solution than simply throwing GM employees in jail. Prosecutors have the discretion and the ability to craft a deal where GM insiders could help heal the victims they injured.