After six years of fighting the Department of Justice’s food safety compliance actions in his local district court, Amos Miller has taken some of the decision-making to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.
The “interlocutory appeal” Miller filed with the Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania on May 10 is now assigned to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. In it, Miller challenges Judge Edward G. Smith’s May 6 decision to retain Dallas attorney Steven LaFuente as Miller’s lawyer.
An interlocutory order is not final and is not subject to immediate appeal. It now appears, however, that the issue Miller has raised will be accepted as an appeal and the decision will likely be imposed on the district court. It also could pause the district court, which is still trying to persuade Miller to comply with food safety regulations.
In the “interlocutory appeal,” Miller said Judge Smith had determined “that Amos Miller does not have the right to choose his own attorney. . .” Miller asked the district court to provide a copy of the recording from the May 10 telephonic hearing, which he said was “critical to the rights, dues, and liabilities of all parties involved in this case.”
Miller is an agribusinessman from Bird-In-Hand, PA. He owns farms in multiple states and has a national sales reach involving about 4,000 customers through a buyer’s club that deliveries meat, egg, dairy products, and fermented fruits and vegetables.
Nearly six years ago, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), represented by the U.S. Justice Department, filed a civil action seeking to make Miller and his Miller’s Organic Farm comply with federal meat and poultry food safety statutes.
The DOJ has sought to force Miler to operate under the “Federal Grant of Inspection” before his farm may slaughter, prepare, process, or sell for distribution of any meat or poultry products.
The DOJ won permanent injunctions against Miller in civil actions closed out in March 2017 and in November 2019. FSIS found Miller again out of compliance.
A second case was opened and Miller seemed to be coming into compliance last year.
Then, Miller began asking to fire his attorney and replace him with a “sovereign citizens” organization based in Washington. LaFuente filed a motion to leave the case, but the judge did not accept it. No one involved with the sovereign citizens’ group was qualified to replace LaFuente, so he was not released.
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