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