The Cherokee Nation has placed its order with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. It wants its place in the courtroom in Tulsa where the State of Oklahoma and the chicken industry are locked in a civil trial that could up-end how poultry litter is used in the Illinois River Basin.
Last Sept. 14th, just before the trial in U.S. District Court got underway, federal Judge Gregory Frizzell ruled against the tribe’s request that it be allowed to join the state as a plaintiff in the trial.
The tribe argues that it was not tardy in asking the court to allow it to intervene. It did so after the poultry industry made the case about the tribe’s water rights. Diane Hammonds, attorney general for the Cherokee Nation, says any decision Judge Frizzell makes will impact the tribe’s water rights.
Hammonds said concerns about delay of trial or the expense of the litigation are not reasons for excluding the tribe from the courtroom.
The civil trial did proceed on Sept. 24 without a jury with Judge Frizzell managing to hear almost 30 actual days of testimony during the first two months. With the State of Oklahoma still putting on its case, the proceedings are now expected to drag into 2010.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard the Cherokee Nation’s appeal last week, also won’t likely rule until early in 2010.
At issue in the Tulsa courtroom is Oklahoma’s contention that poultry companies are responsible for how an estimated 1,800 chicken farms in the one million-acre watershed use “poultry litter” on their fields and its subsequent runoff into rivers and streams.
Oklahoma sued the Arkansas-based chicken companies in 2005. The defendants include Cargill Inc., George’s Inc., Peterson Farms Inc., Simmons Foods Inc., and Tyson Foods Inc. Three smaller companies have been dismissed from the lawsuit.
Much of the trial has been a showcase for “lawyers behaving badly.” Documents totaling tens of thousands of pages have been introduced, forcing Frizzell to recess the trial to read them. He suspects the court is being flooded with documents as a method of laying groundwork for appeal.