The Animal Law Section Officers serve one-year terms. Elections are usually held at the section’s annual meeting in conjunction with the State Bar of Texas annual meeting in June (usually). A nominating committee is formed and nominees are solicited approximately 60 days before the election. Anyone interested in running for office or a council member position may contact the Chair of the Animal Law Section.
The State Bar of Texas will hold its next annual meeting is June 22-23, 2023 at the JW Marriott in Austin, Texas. More information available here.
Below are the new officers and council after our election in July 2022.
There are eight council members who serve two-year terms. The council is the governing body of the section.
Chair – Ashley N. Morgan
Vice Chair – Christiana Dijkman
Treasurer – Richard Thompson
Secretary – Miranda Cook
Past Chair – Eric Torberson
Council Members 2022-2024
Council Members 2021-2023
Chair Ashley N. Morgan
ASHLEY N. MORGAN is a trial attorney whose primary practice is personal injury defense litigation. Ashley is a Senior Associate Attorney at the Austin office of Fee, Smith, & Sharp, L.L.P. She has handled a variety of animal law cases, including personal injury, divorce, and dog ownership disputes. Ashley graduated from Baylor Law School in 2016. While she was a law student, Ashley was President of Student Animal Legal Defense Fund and managed a trap-neuter-return campaign for local feral cat colonies. Ashley has a Master’s Degree in Communication Studies from Baylor University. She received the award for Top Student Paper in Philosophy and Ethics at the 84th Annual Southern States Communication Convention for her paper “Anthropocentrism, Rhetorical Criticism, and Argumentation Theory.” She has previously served in the positions of Council Member and Secretary of the Animal Law Section of the State Bar of Texas and is a member of the Animal Law Section of the Austin Bar Association.
Past Chair Eric Torberson
ERIC TORBERSON is a private practice personal injury and criminal defense attorney in the Austin area. He began developing a passion for animal law several years ago beginning mainly in defending dogs in dangerous dog hearings. His practice then expanded into filing lawsuits for ownership rights and personal injury litigation involving animals on the plaintiff and defense side. Eric believes animals deserve due process in court. Many times courts make a life or death decision based on little evidence. Eric received the Animal Advocacy Award for the Animal Law section of the State Bar of Texas in 2018. Eric graduated from St. Mary’s University School of Law in 2001. Eric was an active duty United States Recon Marine from 1991-1995. For more about Eric visit https://www.erictorberson.com
Vice Chair Christiana Dijkman – Coming Soon!
Treasurer Richard Thompson
Richard Thompson graduated with a BS-CJ from UT Arlington in 1979 and a JD from South Texas College of Law in 1985 and has practiced law since 1986. Most of his career has been spent in consumer and commercial collections. He became interested in Animal Law after attending an HBA CLE more than a decade ago about investigating the arrests, and prosecution of a horrific dog fighting ring in East Texas. He loves animals, particularly dogs. Richard has practiced less animal law than some, but volunteers time to the Montgomery County Animal Shelter on 242 and has fostered dogs. He finds the cases our animal law section members handle and the issues they present fascinating.
Secretary Miranda Cook
Miranda Cook is a personal injury and product liability trial attorney on the Plaintiff’s side, and she is passionate about pursuing justice and accountability for her clients, family and friends. Miranda graduated from Baylor Law School in 2016, and has been practicing at Sico Hoelscher Harris LLP, a trial firm in San Antonio, since she was licensed in 2017. Miranda became involved in the Animal Legal Defense Fund in Law School, and is excited to be involved in the Animal Law Section now. She hopes to increase awareness of the legal issues involving animals in her San Antonio community, and advocate for the rights of animals, just like she does on a daily basis with her human clients. Miranda believes that animals are more than pets – they are part of the family. Miranda has two adopted fur babies, a 16 year old Maltese named Princess who she and her husband adopted from an elderly family member, and a 3 year old Maltese-mix named Blanca, who they adopted from the Paws of Love Animal Rescue group in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Upon graduating from law school in 2004, Jessica Milligan practiced civil law in San Antonio before becoming an Assistant District Attorney for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office from 2006-2020. While a prosecutor, Jessica handled various types of felonies and misdemeanors, but focused on animal cruelty prosecutions as the Animal Cruelty Section Chief. As the head animal cruelty prosecutor, Jessica prosecuted thousands of felony animal cruelty offenders, worked on special and legislative initiatives relating to animal abuse, and founded the Harris County District Attorney’s Office H.O.P.E. (Helping Our Pets through Education) Program.
Jessica is now in private practice but continues to be a resource on animal cruelty investigations throughout the country and is a frequent speaker on criminal law and animal cruelty issues at various law schools, law enforcement academies, and animal welfare conferences. She has held various board positions with the Houston Bar Association’s Animal Law Section and State Bar of Texas Animal Law Section. Jessica holds a dual bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Management from New Mexico State University, a J.D. from St. Mary’s in San Antonio, and is a licensed attorney in both Texas and Colorado. She and her husband have three boys, two rescue pups, and an aquarium full of carnival fish.
Cynthia Smiley has enjoyed a variety of roles in a legal career that began with graduation from The University of Texas School of Law in 1981 — starting as an in-house counsel for a major corporation in Houston, followed by work as an attorney for the Texas environmental agency in Austin, and by years of work in law firms as an attorney in the Austin Offices of Jones Day, Baker Botts, and Kelly Hart & Hallman. She served as the Chair of the Environmental & Natural Resources Law Section of the State Bar of Texas from 2011-2012 and has been recognized by “Best Lawyers” in the fields of environmental law and water law since 2008. In May 2018, she was honored to receive the “Outstanding Achievement Award” from the Travis County Women Lawyers’ Association. In 2019, she was selected to serve as a member of the leadership for the Animal Law Section of the State Bar of Texas. In February 2012, Ms. Smiley ventured into the solo/small firm world with the formation of Smiley Law Firm, where she continues to practice environmental law and water law for a wide array of clients, including individuals, associations, and businesses. In addition, inspired by her experience as a volunteer puppy-raiser for Guide Dogs for the Blind and, most recently, for Canine Companions for Independence, Cindy has become very interested in legal issues associated with service dogs and the importance of their work for people who depend upon these amazing animals, along with other issues associated with animals in public places.
Zandra Anderson is a trial lawyer who in 2005 decided to mix passion with profession. She jokes that her life went to the dogs. She has practiced animal law exclusively since then and has represented or counseled with owners and their animals including dogs, cats, horses, ferrets, exotic birds, geese, monkeys, lemurs, goats and a Guinea pig so far. Zandra represents animals and their owners regarding ownership disputes, dangerous dog declarations, animal cruelty, and cases involving pet professionals and animal businesses. She has had cases involving liability issues concerning animal professionals, rescue organizations, and dogs that injure people or pets. She has represented animal owners, rescue organizations, veterinarians and other pet professionals and animal related businesses. Zandra lives in a little city inside Houston with her three dogs–Kabe, an All American Dog mixed with who knows what she got from the local police department, Ziggy a purebred, AKC registered American Staffordshire Terrier, and Zane, her puppy, who is also an AKC registered American Staffordshire Terrier, both obtained from excellent AKC Breeders of Merit. Zandra trains and exhibits dogs in conformation, tracking, nose work, dock diving, barn hunt, obedience, Rally and lure coursing. Pictured is Smooch (1/13/2011—3/28/2022), her beloved American Bulldog rescued from Houston’s animal shelter, BARC.
Ashley Kunz graduated from Doane University in December 2015 with dual degrees in political science and pre-law before graduating from St. Mary’s University School of Law with a Juris Doctor in May 2019. Prior to attending law school, Ashley was always passionate about animals. She worked in an aquarium store and enjoyed helping people realize that all animals, even scaley or slimy ones, deserve love and respect (and can make amazing companions!) While at St. Mary’s University, Ashley founded a Student Animal Legal Defense Fund chapter and served as a staff writer on The Scholar: St. Mary’s Law Review on Race & Social Justice, where she published a comment regarding the link between undiagnosed psychiatric disorders and animal cruelty. Ashley currently works as a family law attorney in Austin and provides estate planning services. She has a rescue cat, Sigourney, and a goldfish named Fumble.
Ernest White Ernest White is a recently licensed attorney who practices commercial litigation in Dallas at Stanton LLP. His interest in animal law first began at St. Mary’s University, where he became involved with the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund. Ernest spent his last year of law school researching and providing legal commentary on Texas statutes, cases, and attorney general opinions concerning animals and animal law. Ernest joined the Animal Law Section with the hopes of assisting other attorneys, especially as the field becomes increasingly prevalent in modern practice. When he’s not at work, Ernest can likely be found reading non-fiction or at a local coffee shop with his Great Dane Edie.
Bios for Paige Santell, Kenna Giffin, and Sydney Bridger Coming Soon!