A sure-fire way to create a kerfuffle in the courtroom is to fire or change out attorneys. Amos Miller knows this because he did it previously when USDA took him to federal court to get food safety regulations enforced.
Joseph A. Macaluso of Morristown, PA, and Jeremy W. Mckey of Dallas, were Miller’s attorneys during the previous enforcement action that ran from June 3, 2016, to March 28, 2017.
Shortly after Miller and Miller’s Organic Farm of Bird-in-Hand, PA, fired Macaluso and Mckey to “defray further legal fees,” two actions occurred.
The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service’s Office of Investigation, Enforcement and Audit sent Miller a five-page warning letter; it documented Miller’s violations and outlined how the Amish farmer might comply with the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act.
In the second action, federal Judge Edward G. Smith of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania dismissed with prejudice, without costs, the pending action against Miller.
With farms in the least two states and a national distribution system, Miller managed to stay out of federal court for a couple of years.
The current enforcement action in Smith’s court dates back to April 2019. Smith found Miller in contempt of court and ordered him to pay a $250,000 fine within 30 days. The judge paused that order after Miller’s current attorney presented evidence that Miller and Miller’s Organic Farm was making progress toward compliance.
But things took a turn recently when Miller again decided to replace his attorney, this time with a little-known advocacy organization known as Prairie Star National.
Miller wants that organization to represent him instead of Dallas attorney Steven LaFuente, even though it’s unclear as to whether Prairie Star National is legally qualified to do so.
It’s up to Judge Smith to sort it out. LaFuente wants the court to dismiss him as Miller’s attorney in the proceedings.
LaFuente learned on Oct. 1 that Prairie Star National from Port Orchard, WA, would be representing Miller and Miller’s Organic Farm.
LaFuente said he then contacted Prairie Star National “and asked to speak with the attorney who will be filing the Motion for Substitute Counsel.” He suspected that the advocacy group does not include “licensed counsel.”
On Oct. 4, LaFuente received a facsimile from Amos Miller saying that he and the farm “will now be represented by National Star Prairie” and dismissing the Dallas attorney.
LaFuente was working on finding a qualified neutral party to conduct an inventory at Miller’s Organic Farm so Miller can begin liquidating arrested products. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has not approved any candidates suggested.
In his departure motion, LaFuente said he “has experience with advocacy groups like Prairie Star National and . . . suspects that defendants have chosen to pursue a strategy with which movant has no desire to associate.”
Judge Smith planned to address Miller’s representation issues earlier this week but has delayed the task to Friday, Nov. 12, 2021, at the federal courthouse in Easton, PA.
Smith said he recognizes the “dispute regarding the defendant’s legal representation arising out communications between the defendants’ counsel and a third-party entity.”
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