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News / Clark County News

Defense attorney sues Clark County and officials, claiming bias, harassment over her use of service animal

By Becca Robbins, Columbian staff reporter
Published: January 24, 2024, 6:48pm

A local defense attorney is suing Clark County and two deputy prosecutors over allegations they harassed and discriminated against her when they questioned the use of her service dog during two trials.

Defense attorney Josephine Townsend said she filed the suit Wednesday on behalf of defense attorney Amanda Shields in Clark County Superior Court. In addition to the county, the suit names deputy prosecutors Anna Joy and Melinda McMahon.

Shields is seeking damages to be determined at trial. She’s also seeking a public apology from the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and the deputy prosecutors, along with training for the office about discrimination laws regarding service animals.

The county and prosecutor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the suit, Shields alleges when she arrived with her service dog at the beginning of a trial in April, Joy demanded Shields prove to the court that she needed her service dog. Shields also said Joy complained she was not notified Shields would be bringing her dog to court.

Shields objected, and she said the deputy prosecutor’s argument was a violation of state law protecting access to service animals. Shields said being questioned in front of her client caused her anxiety, according to the lawsuit.

Shields then complained to the prosector’s office and demanded staff be trained on state law about service animals, the suit states.

The following month, Shields said another deputy prosecutor, McMahon, again questioned her service animal’s presence during a trial. The presiding judge said he didn’t know how to handle the issue and that he would confer with the other judges about proper procedure.

Shields said she did not receive a response from the prosecutor’s office that it was addressing her complaint.

“The demands and embarrassment and deliberate violations of the discrimination laws were done to interfere with Plaintiff’s ability to defend her client, to upset her train of thought and to cause embarrassment with her clients,” the lawsuit alleges.

The suit claims the county was negligent in its failure to train prosecutors about discrimination against service animals and their owners.

She was recently employed at Townsend’s law firm, but the state legal directory indicates she’s now at The Vern McCray Law Firm in Camas.