Owner, Breeder, Equine Law Expert DeMeo Dies

He was a prominent trial attorney who was well versed in equine law.

Longtime owner,breeder, attorney, and civic leader John (Jack) DeMeo died Oct. 6 at his home in Santa Rosa, Calif. He was 82.

A prominent Sonoma County trial attorney, DeMeo practiced law in Santa Rosa for 58 years. He was an expert in equine law and the racing industry, an area of his expertise including jockey claims. He reduced his workload in recent months due to the effects of myeloma, a cancer of the blood.

"He was a scholar, author, and someone who was a master of a host of specialties: litigation, banking, estate, equine, criminal, real estate,"  former Santa Rosa city attorney Brien Farrell, who began his career with DeMeo's law firm, told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

DeMeo not only represented injured jockeys he previously, but also served as counsel for the California Horseman's Association. He was a recipient of the North American Equine Services Star Award, which recognized his skills as one of Northern California's most successful attorneys in equine litigation.

DeMeo was a guiding force at the Sonoma County Fair, which holds Thoroughbred racing each summer, serving as a past president and director. In 2012 he was presented the Award of Excellence in the Horse Industry, given by the Sonoma County Fair Board to individuals who work to promote and enhance the horse industry through their contribution, operation, and community involvement in Sonoma County.

DeMeo and his wife, Judy, have raced horses at the Sonoma County Fair since 1953 and campaigned a four-horse stable this year that includes No Team Spirit, Jack Jack, Jack and Tiza Diva. Together they operated a ranch in west Santa Rosa. 

DeMeo once recalled he'd been interested in horses since he was a young man.

"I'm heavy into horses," DeMeo said. "I raise, breed, and sell them. I've been doing it since I was 19. I remember it started when someone was sending a horse to slaughterhouse and I said, 'Don't do that!'"

DeMeo is survived his wife and one son, Sonoma County Superior Court judge Brad DeMeo, and one daughter, Nancy DeMeo, as well as six grandchildren

A memorial service is set for Oct. 14 at 4 p.m. PDT at the Friedman Event Center in Santa Rosa.