High court settles five-year fight over dog club membership
It took the Nevada Supreme Court to finally resolve a nearly six-year-old fight over a couple’s demand they be allowed to join a Las Vegas dog club.
The fight began when Christopher Owen and his wife, Kathyrn, applied to join the English Springer Spaniel Club of Greater Las Vegas. The American Kennel Club sponsored organization, which breeds, trains and shows English Springer Spaniels in Southern Nevada, has only eight or nine members, which means all the Owens needed was six votes.
But according to court records, they were blackballed. The reason: Christopher had previously been a member but wasn’t wanted back by other members because of his “contentious, argumentative, antagonistic and disruptive behavior” at club meetings.
Kathyrn was denied because of her association with him.
The Owens sued arguing their rejection violates their rights, was arbitrary and capricious and deprived them of due process.
But battle raged through nearly three years of discovery, depositions, motions and court hearings before a Las Vegas district judge granted summary judgment in favor of the Spaniel club.
Owens and his wife appealed to the Supreme Court.
Referring to the lawsuit several times as frivolous, the high court Tuesday agreed with the Spaniel club that the club is a completely private organization whose “purpose does not further the public welfare or involve governmental activities or functions.”
“Given that the club is a private association, due process does not apply,” the high court panel of Chief Justice Bob Rose and Justices Michael Douglas and Nancy Becker wrote.
Owen had argued he was wrongfully rejected because the members disliked him personally.
“Their exclusion stands even if it was substantially rooted in the animosity of club members,” the court wrote.
They ruled that, lacking a civil rights issue, such as race or gender, or a tie to some governmental, public entity or function, the club gets to decide who can be a member.
They did, however, give the Owens one small victory, ruling that the district court should have allowed them to review the legal fees claimed by the club’s members. Those legal fees were originally set at $43,931 but later reduced to $7,088. The high court directed the district judge to grant the couple a review of those charges and a new hearing to determine the appropriate amount of legal fees they owe.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.