Danieli Seeks Court Sanctions Against Government Defendants

Attorneys for Danieli Claim that the King County Defendant’s Notice of Removal was Legally Baseless, and that the Federal Court should impose Court Sanctions.


Almost two months after initially taking Miska, the brown tabby cat’s case to federal court, the King County Defendants have reversed course and now filed a Motion to Remand, in an attempt to return the case back to State Court.  Plaintiff Anna Danieli, who is the owner of Miska, who is at at the center of this litigation, is asking the federal court to impose sanctions, in addition to paying her attorney’s fees and costs. “This case should have never been removed to federal court in the first place,” says Jon Zimmerman, one of the attorneys representing the Danieli.  Danieli’s attorneys have filed a Response to the King County Defendants’ Motion for Remand as well as a separate Motion for Sanctions.  Both court filings allege that the King County Defendants’ original Notice of Removal to federal court was lacking in any valid legal basis for removal to federal court, while also containing material misrepresentations within the court filings. “As officers of the court, attorneys have obligations around the court documents they file,” stated Zimmerman. “Filing court documents without proper legal authority and full of misrepresentations is sanctionable conduct.”

The Case, Before King County Removed It to Federal Court

Before King County filed its Notice of Removal on March 5th, 2021, the case had been in Pierce County Superior Court since April 2019. Since this time, Danieli has dealt with a number of procedural motions to remove certain individual defendants, as well as a significant court victory in October 2020, when she successfully obtained a Declaratory Judgment and Injunction against the City of Bellevue. This decision found relevant portions of the Bellevue City Code invalid, and forbade the King County Hearing Examiner from hearing any further appeals of animal enforcement cases from Bellevue until the City of Bellevue corrected and updated its local law.  In response to the Court’s Order, the City of Bellevue amended the Bellevue City Code in December 2020.  Since the time of this court win, the case has continued with its remaining tort claims, as well as the prospect of civil rights claims against the various Government Defendants resulting from evidence uncovered during litigation.  “This has been a very long process, and a very complicated case” says Zimmerman, who has been prosecuting this case alongside attorney Jeffrey Possinger.

The recent court filings by Danieli’s attorneys describe the detailed timeline of this legally complicated case.  “The facts of this case are complicated, but the story is pretty simple” says Possinger. “This is a case involving a private citizen taking on the government – in this case two governments and their teams of attorneys, and it illustrates just how hard it is to hold the government responsible for its actions.”  Just prior to King County’s filing of its Notice of Removal, the Superior Court had required the attorneys for Danieli to address some procedural matters before it would move forward with approving Danieli’s request to amend her complaint to include claims for civil rights violations. Then, without notice to Danieli’s attorneys or to the Superior Court, King County filed its Notice of Removal, only hours after one such hearing.

“Whether or not Danieli’s proposed civil rights claims would eventually belong in federal court is an arguable question, but there is no question that [King] County’s taking this case to federal court at this time was procedurally premature” says Possinger.  The timing of King County’s actions “essentially jammed a legal and jurisdictional crowbar between the gears of two separate but interrelated court systems” says Danieli’s Motion for Sanctions, actions that have been an unnecessary and costly derailing of Danieli’s case in state court.  It’s this kind of expensive and legally baseless game-playing that Danieli’s Motion for Sanctions seeks to address.

Sanctionable Conduct Part of a Pattern

Danieli’s attorneys say that this kind of conduct by King County and its attorneys is part of a pattern. Danieli’s attorneys point out in the Motion for Sanctions that, in earlier motions ( that ultimately resulted in the City of Bellevue being required to change its law), the Government Defendants had attempted to prevent Danieli from having her day in court at all by “voiding” the underlying civil infractions that had been issued against her before the trial court could hold a hearing on her legal claims.  At the time, all of the Government Defendants had relied on this strategy, as a way to prevent Danieli from having her claims rightfully heard by the court. Not only had the Government Defendants failed to disclose to Danieli’s attorneys for months that they had voided the underlying infractions against their client Danieli (only revealing this information in their Motions to Dismiss), but as Danieli’s attorneys pointed out to the trial court in their responses to the various government motions, the actions taken by King County employees to effectuate this strategy were both illegal and for those taking the actions, official misconduct, according to the relevant law governing civil infractions. Although the trial court did not sanction the Government Defendants at that time, the trial court ignored the Government Defendants’ stratagem, and granted Danieli’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. As is detailed in her Motion for Sanctions, even though she ultimately prevailed and the Government Defendants’ ill-conceived strategy failed, Danieli’s fight against these tactics has come at a high cost to her as a private citizen taking on two of the largest governments in Washington State.

Holding the Government Accountable

Danieli’s attorneys say this motion is required to hold the government and its attorneys accountable. “This lawsuit is about holding the government accountable for its actions, and this particular motion is about holding the government and its attorneys accountable for their conduct within this case,” says attorney Jeffrey Possinger.  He and co-counsel Jon Zimmerman are hopeful that sanctions will prevent, or at least minimize, additional frivolous legal tactics going forward as the case proceeds to trial.

A hearing has been set for Friday, April 30th, 2021 on Danieli’s Motion for Sanctions, and a separate motion requesting consolidation of this motion with the County’s Motion for Remand has not yet been decided.  Chief Judge Ricardo S. Martinez will decide the issues that have been presented by the attorneys for Danieli and the various King County Defendants.

Response to Motion to Remand

Motion for Sanctions (FRCP 11)

Declaration in Support of Motion for Sanctions (FRCP 11)

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King County Takes Miska the Tabby Cat to Federal Court

King County files Notice of Removal in Federal Court, which Danieli’s Attorneys Claim is Premature and Frivolous.


On Friday, March 5th, 2021, the King County Defendants filed a Notice of Removal to the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. With this one filing, King County has essentially made a federal case of the lawsuit involving Miska, the brown tabby cat from Bellevue. King County’s Notice of Removal comes while a number of motions were still pending in Pierce County Superior Court before Judge Timothy Ashcraft, as well as an appeal in the Court of Appeals, Div. 2. 

Attorneys for Anna Danieli, Miska’s owner, have put both King County and the Superior Court on notice that this recent filing was both untimely and legally baseless filing in the Federal Court. “This was clearly a legally frivolous action taken by the King County Defendants,” stated attorney Jon Zimmerman, one of Danieli’s attorneys.  “The Superior Court has not even been given the opportunity to make a decision about [Danieli’s] requested amendment to her complaint, and the King County Defendants are making filings in federal court with zero legal basis.”  Based on filings with the Federal Court, the other defendants, City of Bellevue, and the King County Hearing Examiner have consented to the Notice of Removal.

Danieli’s attorneys are expected to respond to King County’s Notice of Removal in the U.S. District Court, where the case has been assigned to Chief Judge Ricardo S. Martinez.

Notice of Removal (Federal Court) (02-05-2021)

Letter to Superior Court (03-15-2021)

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Danieli asks Court to Add Civil Rights Violations

Based on information uncovered in litigation, Plaintiff is now seeking approval of the Court to add claims to her original complaint that King County Animal Control’s targeting of her and her brown tabby cat, Miska, were a violation of her Civil Rights.


Based on information uncovered over the last several months of litigation, Anna Danieli, the owner of a brown tabby cat from Bellevue, is requesting that the Court allow her to amend her complaint to include claims for violations of her civil rights.  On February 5th, 2021, Danieli filed a motion in Pierce County Superior Court seeking permission from the Court to amend her existing complaint against King County and the other Government Defendants.  Danieli’s case has recently been reassigned to Pierce County Superior Court Judge Timothy Ashcraft.

A copy of the proposed amended complaint was attached to Danieli’s Motion, which set out the basis of her claims that King County and other government actors, including Defendant Gene Mueller, violated her civil rights when she and her cat, Miska, were targeted with excessive enforcement, in part because Mueller is both a neighbor of Danieli and the head of Regional Animal Services of King County (“RASKC”). “We believe that this is a case where the use of government police powers and other government resources in a neighborhood dispute were influenced by the fact that the head of King County Animal Control was interested in the outcome as a neighbor of the our client,“ asserts attorney Jon Zimmerman, one of the attorneys representing Anna Danieli.  The case garnered earlier attention due to the substantial amount of government resources spent prosecuting a neighborhood cat. (See: Article).  At one point, two separate King County Deputy Prosecuting Attorneys were simultaneously assigned to prosecute Miska and her owner, Anna Danieli.  “We have found no cat in King County that has been prosecuted or cited like Miska,” said Zimmerman, referring to the approximate 30 citations issued by RASKC officers to Miska over several years, of the approximate 50 overall citations issued to cats in King County during the same time period. (See: Article).

Troubling New Evidence Discovered

What was unknown at the time that Danieli initially filed her lawsuit in 2019 was the role that Mueller and others had played in the extensive targeting of Danieli and her cat Miska.  In the course of ongoing litigation, evidence has been produced indicating that Mueller, as one of Danieli’s neighbors, was one of the neighbors filing complaints, which were then being prosecuted by his own agency. His involvement as a simultaneous complainant and as head of RASKC was not revealed to Danieli until much later.  Additional evidence has also revealed that Danieli’s neighbors were being solicited and encouraged by RASKC employees to file complaints against Danieli and Miska. However, one of the most disturbing revelations was that Mueller had allegedly shown RASKC employees, including an Animal Control Officer, a photograph on his phone of Mueller’s wife holding a rifle and then indicating to employees “that this was a ‘solution’ to the Danieli ‘cat problem.’”  This Animal Control Officer was later assigned to the RASKC complaint that had been personally filed by Mueller.  Based on this and other evidence that has surfaced, Danieli believes that this excessive and disproportionate enforcement, which singled her out like no other cat owner in King County, is the basis of a civil rights claim against King County, Mueller, and other Government Defendants.

Danieli Lawsuit Has Already Succeeded in Requiring the City of Bellevue to Update and Correct City Code.

Prior to bringing this most current Motion, Danieli had previously succeeded in obtaining a Declaratory Judgement and Injunction that found the City of Bellevue’s Code to be invalid, and which enjoined the King County Hearing Examiner from hearing any further Animal Control Appeals coming out of Bellevue until the city updated and corrected the Bellevue City Code.  Because of this successful Motion for Partial Summary Judgement and the resulting Court Order, the City of Bellevue updated its City Code in early December 2020.  Since the time of that successful motion, the case has continued as Danieli has pursued her tort claims against the Government Defendants, and if approved by the Superior Court at an upcoming hearing, she will pursue her civil rights claims against the Government Defendants as well. “We have been very happy with the results that we have been able to obtain for our client to-date, including the much-needed changes to Bellevue’s law, but we have been particularly troubled about the discoveries we have made over the last few months concerning the events were happening behind the scenes while our client was the subject of such intense prosecution by Animal Control,” said Jeffrey Possinger, another attorney whose firm represents Danieli.  “Despite the earlier wins, there is still a lot of work yet to do in order to get a full measure of justice for our client and her family.”

A hearing is scheduled for February 19th, 2021 at 9:00 AM in Pierce County Superior Court to hear Daniel’s Motion to Amend her Pleadings.

Motion for Leave to Amend (02-05-2021)

Proposed Second Amended Complaint

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City of Bellevue Updates Law in Response to Judge’s Order

In response to the court’s order in Danieli v. King County, the City of Bellevue updates and corrects the Bellevue City Code.


Following the entry of the Court’s Order on November 13, 2020, deeming the City of Bellevue’s City Code invalid, the City of Bellevue has taken action to update its laws.  On December 7, 2020, the Bellevue City Council passed Ordinance No. 6546, which updated Bellevue’s City Code sections 8.04.180, 08.04.340(6)(a) and 8.04.350, effectively fixing the problems in the law that were pointed out in Danieli v. King County, et. al., and ordered to be rectified by the Court.

The City of Bellevue’s change to the law is one of the significant wins for Danieli in her case against the City of Bellevue, and other government agencies. “We are happy for both our client as well as the citizens of the City of Bellevue,” stated Jeffrey Possinger, one of Danieli’s attorneys. “It is unfortunate that it took a lawsuit and a court order to get the government actors to do what should have been done all along, but we are very pleased with this result.”  The new updates to the law will go into effect five days after passage and publication.

This update corrects a significant flaw in the previous Bellevue City Code, which failed to grant legal authority for the King County Hearing Examiner to hear animal control cases arising out of the City of Bellevue.  In 2016, the City of Bellevue entered into an Interlocal Agreement with King County for Animal Control Cases, which required the city to update its code for certain changes in the processes used by King County for appeals of decisions made by Regional Animal Control of King County (“RASKC”). However, after entering into this agreement with King County, the City of Bellevue failed to update its code, which the Court ruled caused earlier decisions made by the King County Hearing Examiner, which included Danieli’s case, to be void. RASKC is the King County agency in charge of enforcing animal control laws in King County, and on behalf of a number of cities, like the City of Bellevue, which King County has entered contracts for services.

Despite this significant win by Danieli in Pierce County Superior Court in October 2020, the case continues against the various Government Defendants, as various tort claims remain unresolved with a trial expected in the Spring of 2021.

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Court Enters Order Against Government Defendants

Court Rules Bellevue City Code Invalid. King County Hearing Examiner enjoined from hearing any further Animal Control Cases until City of Bellevue updates Bellevue City Code.


Attorneys for Miska, the brown tabby cat from Bellevue, and her owner, Anna Danieli, were in court again on Friday, November 13th, 2020, for entry of an Order on Danieli’s earlier success in court on October 23rd, 2020, where Judge Bryan Chushcoff ruled in favor of Danieli’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment seeking Declaratory Relief and Injunctive Relief against the various Government Defendants.

Danieli and the Government Defendants disagreed on the the final order that the Court should enter. Argument around this final written order concerned itself with a number of issues, a critical one relating to the scope and effect of the court’s earlier ruling on the legal authority of the King County Hearing Examiner to hear animal control cases arising out of the City of Bellevue. After legal counsel for Danieli and the various Government Defendants concluded their legal arguments, the court determined to take the issues presented under advisement. Judge Chushcoff entered his final order later the same day.

The order entered by the court is significant. In addition to directly affecting Anna Danieli’s case (in which matters are expected to be dismissed by the King County Hearing Examiner shortly as a result) there may be a broader impact on other cases that have been before the King County Hearing Examiner since 2016.  The court’s order indicates that the City of Bellevue’s law never properly gave legal authority to the King County Hearing Examiner to hear cases coming from the City of Bellevue.  “The Court’s order that was entered today clearly calls into question the validity of any other similar decisions made by the King County Hearing Examiner since 2016 [on cases from Bellevue]”, stated attorney Jeffrey Possinger commenting on the Court’s final decision. “The same legal issues would exist for any decisions that were made [by the King County Hearing Examiner] from cities that failed to update their municipal codes after King County made its shift from the Board of Appeals to the [King County] Hearing Examiner to hear animal control cases. Legally speaking, this is a ticking time bomb for a number of jurisdictions”

The Defendants have 30 days to appeal the Court’s Order.

Order Granting Injunctive and Declaratory Relief (11-13-2020)

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