The Amish agribusinessman from Bird-In-Hand, PA, plays ball with an organization the federal court calls a sovereign citizen group. But it still, looks like Amos Miller may strike out.
Tomorrow, Miller and his Miller’s Organic Farm are due in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The most restrictive Order since 2019, when the USDA first went to the Federal Court to force his regulatory compliance, is waiting for Miller. The order gives a nationally known agricultural expert broad discretion into oversight of Miller’s operations and if the expert feels threatened, U.S. Marshals are offered for his security.
Ahead of tomorrow’s court session, the Prairie Star National Trust, which claims some sovereign status independent of jurisdiction by the United States or its courts, filed more paper on Miller’s behalf with the court.
The 8-page filing claims to be a “Write of Habeas Corpus” to redress the violation of Miller’s rights. Miller signed the petition on Jan. 26, claiming that he did not “give away my natural rights to any government institution or agency, including the IMF or the United Nations or any other ‘Corporate entity’ providing any kind of government services.”
Judge Edward G. Smith tossed previous filings when Miller asked if the sovereign citizen’s group could replace his lawyers.
Judge Smith tomorrow could sign the most restrictive Order since USDA first sought to force Miller’s compliance with federal food safety regulations. The ruling, which is awaiting tomorrow’s hearing in draft form, would drop a heavy load on Miller, including these provisions, including the appointment of George David Lapsley as the court’s expert for the case duration and accepts the United States motion on the issues.
“Mr. Lapsley shall: (a) serve as a neutral, independent expert unbeholden to any of the parties; and (b) assist the Court by providing expert analysis and opinions concerning defendants’ compliance with specified provisions in the Court’s enforcement orders” according to the draft ruling.
“The Court authorizes Mr. Lapsley to have — and orders Amos Miller, Miller’s Organic Farm, and their employees, workers, agents, and assigns to provide Mr. Lapsley with:
- unimpeded access to the meat-and-poultry-related records and facilities of (i) Miller’s Organic Farm; (ii) Amos Miller Organic Farm; (iii) Amos Miller; and (iv) the agents, employees, workers, associates, and assigns of Miller’s Organic Farm, Amos Miller Organic Farm, and Amos Miller;
- Such unimpeded access shall extend to facilities and records used for any meat-and-poultry-related purpose (including but not limited to the purposes of storage, freezing, processing, or distribution) at any of the following locations: (i) Miller’s 648 Mill Creek School Road property in Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania; (ii) Miller’s adjacent property at 672 Mill Creek School Road; and (iii) any other property used by Miller’s Organic Farm, Amos Miller Organic Farm, or any person or entity affiliated with Miller’s Organic Farm, Amos Miller Organic Farm, Amos Miller, or his family;
- the ability to engage in both formal and informal conferences (including confidential individual or group interviews) with Amos Miller’s, Miller’s Organic Farm’s, and Amos Miller Organic Farm’s: (i) employees and workers; (ii) agents; (iii) associates; (iv) assigns (including but not limited to David Lantz); (v) paid or unpaid staff members; and (vi) affiliates (whether individuals or firms), including but not limited to such affiliates as livestock and poultry suppliers/transporters, processing/shipping equipment vendors, product transportation/hauling companies, slaughter and/or processing establishments, and Amos Miller’s, Miller’s Organic Farm’s, and Amos Miller Organic Farm’s food clubs, agents, and vendors; and
- the freedom to make unannounced site visits (which the Court expects Mr. Lapsley to make) to (i) Miller’s property at 648 Mill Creek School Road; (ii) Miller’s adjacent property at 672 Mill Creek School Road; and (iii) any other property used for any meat-and- poultry-related purpose (including but not limited to the purposes of storage, freezing, processing, or distribution) by Miller’s Organic Farm, Amos Miller Organic Farm, Amos Miller, or any person (including any of Mr. Miller’s family members) or entity affiliated with any of them.
- Defendants Amos Miller and Miller’s Organic Farm shall cooperate with Mr. Lapsley’s requests and visits as if they were the Court’s own requests and visits.
- Mr. Lapsley is authorized to require the parties to prepare and submit to him, as appropriate, reasonably prompt written responses to any questions that he may pose to them. The parties shall promptly and meaningfully respond to Mr. Lapsley’s oral and written requests.
- Under this appointment order, Mr. Lapsley’s current scope of work is limited to overseeing, monitoring, and facilitating—and reporting to the Court and the parties on — defendants’ compliance with the injunction and enforcement provisions in the Court’s contemporaneous (February 2022) Second Contempt Sanctions Order. Those provisions specifically include the Court’s requirements that defendants: (a) cease meat and poultry operations/sales/activities; (b) modify websites and social media accounts; (c) post statements on the front doors of Miller’s retail stores and other locations where Miller’s meat and poultry products have been or are being sold; (d) complete an inventory within 60 days; (e) conduct any limited liquidation only after FSIS verifies the inventory; and (f) create and maintain contemporaneous records.
- Mr. Lapsley is directed to review those provisions in the Second Contempt Sanctions Order and to facilitate defendants’ compliance with the inventory provisions to the extent provided for in that Order.
For example, consistent with the Second Contempt Sanctions Order, Mr. Lapsley should monitor and/or report on whether:
- In violation of the Second Contempt Sanctions Order, defendants, their agents, employees, or assigns are engaging in (a) any amenable livestock/poultry slaughter or processing operations (including custom-exempt operations) at any site; (b) distribution, shipping, offer for sale, or sales of amenable meat or poultry products; (c) taking, sending, or having sent/delivered, for the purpose of slaughter and/or processing, any amenable animals to any federally inspected or non-federally-inspected slaughter and/or processing establishment, facility, or individual; (d) purchasing, handling, storing, and/or receiving any live amenable livestock or poultry intended for slaughter in the near future; (e) purchasing, handling, storing, or receiving any amenable meat or poultry products for further processing and/or for resale, distribution, offer for sale, sale, donation, or distribution to customers; or (f) taking in-person, internet, telephone, fax, email, or other orders — or acting on such orders — for amenable meat/poultry products of defendants or their agents (including but not limited to agents such as Miller’s family members, Miller’s-associated food clubs/vendors, David Lantz, Miller’s employees, or the Groff family);
- Within ten days after entry of the Second Contempt Sanctions Order, defendants and their agents: (a) posted an FSIS-approved, conspicuous statement on their websites and social media pages/accounts; and (b) removed from websites (including vendor websites) and social media pages/accounts all references to the sale or availability of (and all photos of) amenable meat and poultry for sale, Order, or purchase;
- Within ten days after entry of the Second Contempt Sanctions Order, defendants prominently and legibly displayed (and have since continued to display prominently and legibly) such an FSIS-approved statement on their retail storefront door(s);
- Since the entry of the Second Contempt Sanctions Order, defendants, their employees, agents, and assigns have not moved any of Miller’s (or affiliated or successor businesses’ or family members’) amenable meat or poultry inventory from the inventory’s current locations to any other location(s) for any purpose, including but not limited to the purposes of storage, freezing, processing or distribution, without advance notice to Mr. Lapsley and FSIS, and without advance permission from FSIS;
- Within 15 days of entry of the Second Contempt Sanctions Order, defendants disclosed in writing fully to Mr. Lapsley the precise locations of all to-be-inventoried articles and products, including not only property addresses but also exact locations on such properties;
- Defendants have been cooperating with Mr. Lapsley’s and FSIS’s efforts to take and verify an inventory and have been providing unimpeded access to the inventory, facilities, and related records;
- Defendants complied with provisions in the Second Contempt Sanctions Order requiring them, as part of the inventory process: (a) to separate and identify meat and poultry articles intended for Amos Miller’s or his family’s personal use; (b) appropriately and clearly to identify (by species and product type) articles accounted for in the inventory; and (c) to segregate the inventory by species and cut;
If required by Mr. Lapsley or FSIS, defendants cooperated by moving and/or staging meat and poultry articles for ease of access and viewing during the inventory and FSIS’s verification of the inventory;
Within 30 days of entry of the Second Contempt Sanctions Order, Mr. Lapsley was able to arrange for the conducting of (or himself conducted) a detailed written inventory of all meat and poultry at the locations mentioned in that Order, including but not limited to articles and products that are currently under arrest (seized) and under detention;
Mr. Lapsley encountered any difficulties in meeting the requirements in the Second Contempt Sanctions Order for him to submit to FSIS, within 60 days after entry of that Order, a completed written inventory that complies with the Order’s requirements;
Defendants and their agents have refrained from liquidating, distributing, and relocating amenable meat and poultry that are subject to the inventory process, unless and until FSIS has verified the inventory consistent with the Second Contempt Sanctions Order;
If and when (and only when) FSIS verifies the meat and poultry product inventory and approves liquidation for direct sales to Miller’s private membership association members, defendants have complied with the Second Contempt Sanctions Order’s requirements when making those sales/distributions, and have created, maintained, and made available to Mr. Lapsley and FSIS contemporaneous records appropriately documenting the sales and distributions; and
For any FSIS-approved/verified product liquidations, defendants completed the liquidations within 60 days of FSIS’s approval/verification and complied with the Second Contempt Sanctions Order’s restrictions on product donations.
- (outside of the presence of any other party) regularly engage with Mr. Lapsley either orally or in writing.
- If the parties do not object, Mr. Lapsley may hold meetings/discussions that both USDA-FSIS and defendants attend but at which counsel for neither the United States nor defendants is present.
- Any party (USDA-FSIS, Amos Miller, or Miller’s Organic Farm) may individually
- For as long as any defendant in this action remains represented by legal counsel who is admitted to practice in this Court, any attorney communications with Mr. Lapsley must involve both AUSA Sullivan (or another attorney from his office) and such counsel for the defendants, and must not occur ex parte.
- Consistent with the Court’s orders in this action, Mr. Lapsley’s role does not (and his activities do not) prevent or affect USDA-FSIS’s ability to conduct: (a) verification visits at defendants’ facilities; or (b) other activities authorized by law and regulations (for example, product detentions and verifications at facilities or businesses that do not belong to defendants).
- Mr. Lapsley, without giving notice to any party, shall have the unqualified right to contact the Court with any questions he may have regarding this appointment order or any other aspect of this action (including any party’s interference or lack of cooperation with his activities and inquiries), and the Court may respond to those contacts and questions with or without notice to the parties.
- Mr. Lapsley shall immediately contact the Court if at any time he feels threatened or unsafe in carrying out his activities. Upon such contact, the Court will consider whether to coordinate Mr. Lapsley’s activities with the U.S. Marshals Service.
- As he deems appropriate, Mr. Lapsley may document and support his findings with photographic and video evidence of the records and facilities he reviews.
- Mr. Lapsley shall report his findings orally at status calls or hearings with the Court and the parties and/or in writing, as the Court shall later direct. If, before the Court so directs, Mr. Lapsley has made findings that he wishes to report, he should ask the Court (by email to Judge Smith’s chambers) how and when it wishes him to present them.
- Consistent with Federal Rule of Evidence 706(b), any party to this action may depose Mr. Lapsley and may call him to testify at any hearing, where he will be subject to cross-examination.
- The Court’s appointment of Mr. Lapsley does not limit any party in calling its own expert(s) at any hearing.
- Any party to this action may: (a) raise with the Court any dispute about Mr. Lapsley’s mandate and the scope of his responsibilities; and (b) petition the Court to exercise its discretion to terminate the grant of authority to Mr. Lapsley.
- Mr. Lapsley shall be compensated at his standard rates for services performed in accordance with this appointment order and for all reasonable and customary expenses incurred in the performance of duties outlined in this Order, all of which Mr. Lapsley shall itemize and describe with particularity in his payment requests. He should submit those payment requests to the Court (by email to Judge Smith’s chambers) on a biweekly basis (i.e., every fourteen days), with copies to the parties’ counsel.
- In accordance with the Second Contempt Sanctions Order, the Clerk of Court shall pay Mr. Lapsley’s invoices that the Court approves out of civil contempt fine funds that the Court has ordered defendants to pay into the Court’s registry.
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