PINEDALE – A 15-month-long civil suit, brought by a former Pinedale resident seeking $15.5 million in damages, ended abruptly before the Oct. 23 two-day bench trial was set to begin.
Jason R. Harlow, now living in Yellowstone’s Grant Village, filed the multi-claim suit and represented himself in court.
In a recent legal brief, Harlow protested the judge’s decision that his service dog, if not “certified” as such, could not be in the Ninth District courtroom during the trial, according to court records.
After the Sept. 26 hearing, Ninth District Judge Marv Tyler wrote that Harlow’s legal brief about his ruling on the service animal issue was due by Oct. 2.
On Oct. 2, the court filed Harlow’s “brief regarding service animals & willful discrimination by Judge Marvin Tyler.” He asked the judge to recuse himself.
The next day, Judge Tyler’s order vacated the trial and on Oct. 23, he transferred it to another fellow Ninth District Judge Timothy Day in Teton County.
The Sept. 26 hearing’s transcript relates the “service animal” discussion. Harlow’s earlier pretrial memo advised Judge Tyler “that he may bring his service animal to the (Oct. 23) proceedings.”
On Sept. 26, Judge Tyler asked about “something else you put in here about pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, you may bring a service animal to the proceeding; I need to know what that accommodation is for.”
“Post traumatic stress disorder,” Harlow replied.
Judge Tyler asked if the service animal was certified.
Harlow said, “There is no such thing as a certified service animal.”
The judge asked, “I mean is this a trained animal? You need to submit in advance whatever documentation you have about that before I will allow an animal into the proceedings.”
Harlow: “Your Honor, that would be contrary to federal law.”
Judge: “Pardon me?”
Harlow: “That would be contrary to federal law.”
Judge: “What would be contrary to federal law?”
Harlow: “Requiring documentation about a service animal.”
Judge: “I need to know that it is indeed a service animal and not a pet, so you need to supply me with something telling me that it’s a service animal and not a pet.”
Harlow: “Your Honor, that’s contrary to federal law, you cannot ask for documentation.”
Judge: “Well, then your animal is not coming in.”
Harlow: “So you’re denying me the opportunity to bring an animal pursuant to the (ADA)?”
Judge: “No, I’m denying you the opportunity to bring a pet in the courtroom.”
Harlow: “I’m not bringing a pet, your Honor, I’m certifying that this is a service animal.”
Judge: “Well, then you’re going to have to show me some way that it is a service animal.”
Harlow: “That is contrary to federal law, your Honor.”
Judge: “All right. Well, you can send me a brief telling me about the federal law.”
Harlow: “ I sure will.”
Judge: “But you’re not bringing an animal in until I’m satisfied that it is a service animal and not a pet.”
Harlow: “Will you put that in writing for me?”
Judge: “You’re on the record.”
On Oct. 2, Harlow’s brief with his legal arguments was filed.
“Judge Tyler insinuated that (Harlow) would be unable to attend court with his service animal unless documentation as shown,” he wrote.
His brief served “to cite federal law and to provide the judge blatantly violated the (ADA) and two, that this court intentionally discriminated against plaintiff by requiring proof of a service animal.”
Harlow cited statutes as to what a public entity can ask ask about a disability and service animal.
Harlow also cited the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution about equal protection under the law, saying, “These actions by Judge Tyler specifically target plaintiff’s disability and therefore strongly indicate bias against plaintiff.”
Further, he was “subjected to multiple discriminatory acts by Sublette County” and “has reached the end of his patience.”
Harlow’s original suit requested millions in damages from defendants including a former partner, that man’s father and that man’s new partner as well as Sublette County court and school district officials. He claimed his they prevented him from voting at the Pinedale Wrangler Gym and accused them of stealing, sexual assault and other offenses, court records show.
Much of the lawsuit was pared away before the bench trial, for which Harlow submitted a list 39 witnesses and evidence. At the Sept. 26 hearing, the remaining three defendants said they would represent themselves and had no witnesses or evidence.
Judge Tyler “should be ashamed of himself … and recuse himself” for what he called discrimination against himself and the suit’s defendants “based on the basis of disability or sexual orientation,” Harlow wrote.
He requested “a competent judge who will not discriminate against him or any other party in this lawsuit based on the basis of disability or sexual orientation…”
On Oct. 3, Judge Tyler cancelled the Oct. 23 bench trial.
“This matter having come before the court upon Plaintiff’s Brief Regarding Service Animals & Willful Discrimination by Judge Marvin Tyler, it is hereby ordered that the trial … is hereby vacated,” it says.
In response Judge Tyler transferred Harlow’s case to Judge Day in Teton County.
Harlow said he would a federal complaint against “ Wyoming, Sublette County and all actors individually who have committed offenses against him.” As of Friday, Nov. 3, nothing in his name was filed in Wyoming’s U.S District Court.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division offers “service animal” clarifications at htpps://ada.gov.