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Cattlemen’s Country of Origin Labeling Lawsuit Faces Lawyer Problem

Cattlemen who support the United States’ Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law were not pleased with the news that Italian lawyer Giorgio Sacerdoti of the World Trade Organization has given Washington, D.C. a spring deadline by which it must repeal or modify the COOL law.

But for the growing list of cattlemen and their organizations, the problem of the moment is not WTO’s lawyer, but the lawyer they’ve chosen to represent them in a federal district court challenge they’ve brought against the WTO and the U.S. government.

Attorney Joel Joseph, chairman of the Made in the USA Foundation Inc., has been ordered by the Ohio Supreme Court to “immediately cease and desist from the practice of law in any form and forbidding him from appearing on behalf of any court, judge, commission, board, administrative agency or other public authority.”

Timothy B. Jafek, an assistant U.S. attorney in Denver, has filed a notice with U.S. District Court for Colorado, to have Joseph removed from the WTO lawsuit. Joseph has written a four-page response, in which he says Ohio is reconsidering its order, claiming he’s done nothing unethical or immoral, and that the federal COOL case is important. He also says U.S. district courts have exclusive jurisdiction over disciplining attorneys that appear before them.

The Ohio order appears to stem from an issue over client funds in Maryland. Retired federal Judge Richard P. Matsch will decide the lawyer’s status with the federal court in Denver next week.

The lawsuit was filed in September by the Made in the USA Foundation — of which Joseph is co-founder — and Montana-based United Stockgrowers of America (also known as R-CALF) as a challenge to a WTO ruling mostly favoring Canada and Mexico in how COOL can be applied.

Since then, organizations representing South Dakota, Wyoming and Washington State cattlemen, among others, have individually joined the lawsuit, which also names U.S. Trade Ambassador Ron Kirk and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack as defendants.

After the June 29 WTO ruling, Canada and Mexico further complained about the U.S. not moving fast enough. In response, Sacerdoti set a ten month deadline ending May 23, 2013.

“It is utterly ridiculous that our great nation is acting as if we are subservient to unelected foreigners at the WTO,” says R-CALF’s Mike Schultz, who chairs the organization’s COOL committee.

Schultz says WTO is attempting to coerce the United States into repealing or modifying the U.S.’s constitutionally passed COOL law, which requires labels telling consumers where their food is produced.

When the case was filed, a spokesman for the U.S. Trade Representative told Food Safety News that no international panel, including the WTO, has the ability to change U.S. law.

The U.S. COOL law went into effect in 2009, and was subjected to WTO appeals by Canada and Mexico almost immediately. U.S. appeals were not successful. The WTO order would not necessarily end COOL in the U.S. if the information was deemed useful to consumers.

Canada wanted muscle cuts of beef and pork removed from the covered commodities and Mexico wanted its beef slaughtered in the U.S. in order to be able to bear a U.S. origin label.

The U.S. remains committed to providing consumers with information on the origin of beef and pork products, according to the USTR.

Joseph claims to have written the COOL law, which requires country of origin labeling on fresh produce, fish, meat and other food products. The Made in USA Foundation was formed in 1989, and has been based in Los Angeles since 2007.

President Richard M. Nixon appointed Judge Matsch to the federal bench in 1974.

© Food Safety News
  • RCALF_shoots_own_foot_again

    R-CALF seems to actively seek out alliances with shifty anti-agriculture activist groups like this Made in the USA Foundation owned and operated by, as it turns out, a crooked lawyer. Also in bed with Food & Water Watch and co-conspirators who cooked up the Meatless Monday campaign. Imagine that; cranks posing as cattlemen pushing an anti-meat campaign. What sort of witless idiots do these crooks take us for?  I, for one, am insulted.

    • johnmunsell

      Come out of the closet and reveal your name.  I’ve met several folks at Food & Water Watch, and they eat meat just like you and me.  To associate R-Calf with Meatless Mondays is like stating the Pope is a Protestant.  But it does stir the emotions, as lies always do.  The bottom line here is whether we Americans will acquiesce our sovereignty and autonomy to the WTO, a required prerequisite to participate in global trade.  Who would have ever thought an American law would be overturned by an international group?  We’ve come a long way baby.  The wrong way.  We are now pledging allegiance to the WTO flag. 

      John Munsell

      • Wait a second–you do realize this has to do with the US participating in world trade, don’t you?

        In other words, if we didn’t benefit from the WTO we wouldn’t adhere to the WTO. Well, the difficult part of being a member of the WTO is that we don’t always get everything we want.  We didn’t get what we wanted when it comes to the dolphin-free labels for tuna, and we didn’t get what we wanted with COOL.  We did win with WTO when it comes to a recent decision about bank cards.http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/16/us-usa-china-wto-idUSBRE86F0J020120716Now, if you want to close the borders and cut off all export business, then maybe we can get rid of that pesky WTO membership. Otherwise, this is a part of international business. 

  • LawrenceOshanek

    Of course Americans have always sat on both sides of this fence …. using WHO against others when useful to their interests and complaining about WHO when a disadvantage is discovered.

    America can be a whinny little bitch.

    • Oginikwe

      By any chance did you mean “WTO”?

      When you are attacking a country, it’s a good idea to have your acronyms correct.

  • Minkpuppy

    It does seems there is a double standard about COOL at the WTO where the US is concerned. 

    Every box of beef we export has to be labeled “Product of USA”  in order to meet the requirements of the importing countries but when the US decides they want to let their consumers know where the meat is coming from, it’s a problem. 

    The WTO can’t have it both ways.