After a thorough scolding by the judge — to say nothing of some of us on the commentary side — the celebrity-friendly environmentalist group is cutting its losses. [DelmarvaNow] An official with the University of Maryland’s environmental law clinic defends the school’s stand here.
On Maryland’s Eastern Shore yesterday, federal judge William Nickerson ruled against a lawsuit alleging that Alan and Kristin Hudson’s family farm and Perdue Inc. violated the federal Clean Water Act. The plaintiffs, the Waterkeeper Alliance led by celebrity environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., had hoped to establish that big food processors, in this case Perdue, could be held liable for the purported pollution sins of “contract growers” like the Hudson family. Aside from its considerable factual weaknesses, for which the judge criticized the plaintiffs, the case had touched off a furor in Maryland because the University of Maryland law school’s environmental clinic had entered the lists on behalf of Waterkeeper and its long-shot theory; Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley had sent a critical letter to the university saying it had contributed to an “injustice” against the Hudsons. The university law clinic says it’s reviewing the judge’s order in search of grounds for appeal. [Beth Moszkowicz/Daily Record, Charlene Sharpe/DelmarvaNow, MeatPoultry.com; earlier coverage, CBS Baltimore, Mark Newgent/Red Maryland; Maryland Coast Dispatch; pro-defense SaveFarmFamilies.org; legislative reaction, NLJ and more]
P.S. Don’t miss this from John Steele at Legal Ethics Forum, quoting the judge’s concluding paragraph:
The Court has no disagreement with Plaintiff that the Chesapeake Bay is an important and vital resource, that it is seriously impaired, and that the runoff from factory farms, including poultry operations, may play a significant role in that impairment. Nor does the Court disagree that citizen suits under the Clean Water Act can play a significant role in filling the void where state regulatory agencies are unable or unwilling to take appropriate legal action against offenders. When citizen groups take up that mantle, however, they must do so responsibly and effectively. The Court finds that in this action, for whatever reason, Waterkeeper did not meet that obligation.
- Environmental law’s oft-praised public trust doctrine may have made California drought worse [Gary Libecap, Regulation magazine, via Peter Van Doren, Cato] Blame Nestlé for California water crisis? Well, people can try [Coyote]
- True to “so-called Seattle Process of inclusive and abundant dialogue,” tunnel to replace Alaskan Way viaduct has developed into expensive fiasco [Karen Weise, Bloomberg]
- Jefferson’s method of surveying “abstract and commodifiable” land, well suited to flat Midwest, curbed litigation and greatly advanced American prosperity [Steve Sailer, Chronicles]
- RFK Jr.’s Waterkeeper “tightly intertwined with more than one of the players in [Skelos] investigation” [Scott Waldman, Capital New York]
- High overhead: “what they are doing is pricing people out of the ceiling fan market” [Michael Bastasch, Daily Caller, re: Rep. Marsha Blackburn criticism of energy regulations]
- Didn’t know San Francisco had such a high rate of vacant rentals: “America’s Rent-Controlled Cities Are Its Least Affordable” [Scott Beyer] Craziness of city’s housing policy long predates today’s war against techie newcomers [Coyote]
- “Chimpanzee almost gets habeas corpus — and in any event the Nonhuman Rights Project gets a court hearing” [Volokh, earlier on chimpanzees and rights]
Collateral Damage: Farm Families Under Attack reviews the questionable political and academic actions that enabled the New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance to push forward with its lawsuit against the Hudson family, and the continuing threat that environmental extremists pose to family farmers, not just in Maryland but across the nation.
I wrote about the case here, here, and here. It raises questions of legal ethics (when the mistaken factual basis for a claim is revealed, aren’t the attorneys obliged to withdraw it?), ideological adventurism in the environmental sphere by state-affiliated law schools, and the need for loser-pays. Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, who failed in a bid for the Democratic nomination for governor, comes off badly in the video, and America’s Most Irresponsible Public Figure® Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., even worse.
[cross-posted from my Maryland blog Free State Notes; more on RFK Jr.’s latest foray into public discussion, in which the celebrity scion/frothing hothead again demands the incarceration of various persons who take the opposite side from him in environmental controversy]
The group Save Farm Families is doing a nonfiction film (link to trailer) about the Hudson Farm case, in which Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Waterkeeper group, backed by a University of Maryland environmental law clinic, sued an Eastern Shore chicken farming family on charges a judge later threw out as unfounded. More at my local policy blog Free State Notes.
- California officials profess surprise: fracking’s been going on for decades in their state [Coyote]
- Taxpayers fund Long Island Soundkeeper enviro group, affiliated with RFK Jr.’s Waterkeeper network, and a Connecticut state lawmaker does rather nicely out of that [Raising Hale]
- Backgrounder on Louisiana coastal erosion suit [New Orleans Times-Picayune] “Lawsuit Blaming Oil Companies For Wetland Loss Might As Well Blame The Plaintiffs” [Daniel Fisher, Forbes]
- US ties for worst of 25 countries when it comes to delay in mining permits [Sharon Koss, NTU] “Number One in DataMining” [@sonodoc99]
- “BP Is Rapidly Becoming One Giant Law Firm” [Paul Barrett, Bloomberg Business Week]
- “Mann v. Steyn — Mann wins round one” [Adler]
- An insider’s view of EPA and how it uses power [Brent Fewell]
- Legislature won’t pass dram shop liability, lawyers ask Maryland high court to do so instead [Frederick News-Post]
- In St. Mary’s County, new visitor rules for elementary schools ban hugging or giving homemade food to any but own kid [Southern Maryland News]
- Progress: Maryland Senate votes to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana [NBC Washington]
- If it’ll take $1 million for Somerset County (pop. 26,000) to cut stormwater nitrogen runoff by 145 pounds, how’s it going to manage to cut 37,000 pounds? [AP]
- “Fracking Moratorium Falls One Vote Short of Passing Key Senate Committee” [Chestertown Spy] “Bill was more about preventing fracking than studying it.” [@ToddEberly]
- Department of Truly Dreadful Ideas: Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-Montgomery) continues to push bill to establish state-owned bank [Baltimore Business Journal]
- Website attacking Montgomery County’s Valerie Ervin has some union fingerprints [WaPo] Sen. Brinkley blasts union bill to make all Md. teachers pay agency fees [Maryland Reporter]
- Video interview with Hudson attorney George Ritchie on Waterkeeper v. Hudson Farm case [Center Maryland, earlier]
- Added: “Md. Senate votes to outlaw smoking in cars with young children as passengers” [WaPo just now]
I’m in this morning’s New York Post with an opinion piece about the thoroughgoing debacle the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) got itself into with a decade-long lawsuit charging mistreatment of elephants at the Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey Circuses (earlier). Last month ASPCA agreed to pay Ringling’s owner $9.3 million to settle charges of litigation abuse. Other defendants in the countersuit, including the Humane Society of the U.S., have declined to settle and remain in the litigation.
Later in the piece I draw a parallel to the recently dismissed Hudson Farm litigation in Maryland, in which a judge lambasted Waterkeeper Alliance for shoddy litigation conduct in a Clean Water Act suit. Is it worth rethinking the whole policy, which dates back to 1970, of broad tax deductibility for suing people in “cause litigation”? Related from Ted Frank at Point of Law.
P.S. The comments section on the Post piece is more substantive than most, and includes a statement from HSUS. (& response from ASPCA head)
I’m in the Baltimore Sun with an op-ed about the University of Maryland’s ill-chosen decision to represent the Waterkeeper Alliance in what was intended to be a landmark environmental case against an Eastern Shore farm family. Earlier here, etc. (& welcome Glenn Reynolds/Instapundit readers)
P.S. Welcome listeners from Baltimore’s WBAL, which had me as a guest Friday afternoon to discuss the suit. Research assistance thanks to Ryan Mulvey, Cato intern.
Things you’re missing if you’re not keeping up with my other site:
- Despite New Yorkers’ outrage over railroad retirement disability abuses, Cuomo probe accomplishes little;
- Founded by America’s Most Irresponsible Public Figure® RFK Jr., the Waterkeeper Alliance is with reason a highly controversial group. Should the University of Maryland be enlisting students regularly in its litigation campaigns?
- NYT relies on plaintiff lawyer source in accusatory story about Pope, then has to walk the story back;
- Louisiana judge: “gradual”, “environmental” insurance exclusions don’t apply to bad-drywall claims;
- New CPSC product complaint database could invite erroneous or even malicious submissions, critics say;
- CBS “60 Minutes” stonewalls Columbia Journalism Review critique of its Chevron-Ecuador segment.