Officers and Council Members

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’s next annual meeting is June 9th and 10th of 2022 at the Marriott Marquis in Houston, TX.

Below are the new officers and council after our election in July 2021.

There are eight council members who serve two-year terms. The council is the governing body of the section.

Officers 2021-2022

Chair-Eric Torberson
Vice Chair-Christiana Dijkman
Treasurer-Kelle Jones
Secretary-Ashley Morgan

Council Members 2020-2022

Place 1 Jessica Milligan
Place 2 Ashley Kraus
Place 3 Richard Thompson
Place 4 Ernest White

Council Members 2021-2023

Place 5 Zandra Anderson
Place 6 Miranda Cook
Place 7 Dee Hobbs
Place 8 Cynthia Smiley


Board Advisor Kathryn Murphy 05/31/2020
Board Advisor Kate Bihm 2020-2021
Board Advisor Emily Miller 2020-2021
Alt Board Advisor Yolanda Cortes Mares 05/31/2020




Chair Eric Torberson

Eric Torberson State Bar of Texas Animal Law ChairERIC 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

Vice Chair Christiana Dijkman-N/A

Treasurer Kelle Jones-N/A

Secretary Ashley Morgan-N/A



Jessica Milligan-

Jessica MilliganUpon graduating from law school in 2004, Jessica Macklin 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.

Ashley KunzAshley Kraus 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.

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.

Ernest animal lawErnest 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.

Zandra Anderson-Bio Coming Soon

Miranda CookMiranda 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.

Dee Hobbs Animal Law Section CouncilDee Hobbs Dee Hobbs began his career as a Prosecutor in the Williamson County Attorney’s office in 2001 and was first elected County Attorney in 2013. He has been elected to three terms as Williamson County Attorney, currently serving in his third term. Mr. Hobbs has continued his family’s legacy of public service; his grandfather served over 35 years with Taylor Police Department – retiring as Chief of Police then serving as interim Sheriff of Williamson County, his Father served in The United States Air force and then a lifetime career in law enforcement including being called into service during the UT Tower Shooting, and his Mother served over 35 years as Justice of the Peace, Pct. 4 in Williamson County. Mr. Hobbs has dedicated over twenty years to seeking justice for the citizens of Williamson County, Texas. Mr. Hobbs received his BA from The University of Texas at Austin and JD from Baylor School of Law. Among the awards he has received during his tenure are Texas Municipal Police Association (for work with DWI prosecution), Children’s Advocacy Center (prosecutor of the year), Williamson County Crime Victim Advocates (2 consecutive years for service on behalf of victims of crimes) as well as recognition in 2015 for efficiency in managing criminal discovery by the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association on the fiscal impact and process changes of the Michael Morton Act. In his years as a prosecutor and as County Attorney he has represented the state in Animal Cruelty cases, introduced Bring Your Dog to work day yearly for his staff and has developed a Service Dog program which includes his own Great Dane, Hank, within the office to assist Victims of crime.

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.