Filed Under: Trial Lawyers

Federal Judge to Eco-Activists: Do Your Homework

You might remember that the Waterkeeper Allianceconspiracy-peddling environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s group–is suing a family farm on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Recently, a judge heard pre-trial motions in the case, and he had some choice words for the Waterkeepers and their publicly funded comrades-in-arms from the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic.

Among the problems the judge found with the Waterkeepers’ complaint was that a central claim underlying their case simply wasn’t true. The family farm defendant did not have a large pile of uncovered and untreated chicken litter near a navigable waterway (the pile contained treated fertilizer, according to Maryland state investigators). That fact led the judge to speculate:

[…] it seems clear that the original Plaintiffs in this action were looking for an opportunity to bring a citizen suit under the CWA [Clean Water Act] against some chicken production operation […]. When [Assateague Coastkeeper Kathy] Phillips discovered a large pile on the Hudson Farm that she believed to be chicken litter, she concluded that she had found her ‘bad apple.’

In short, the judge believed that the Waterkeepers were so eager to sue a poultry farm that they sued based on bad evidence. Given the Waterkeeper Alliance’s history of suing for absurd amounts of cash, that shouldn’t be too surprising.

As for the wealthy Waterkeepers’ publicly funded legal aides, the judge had harsh words for them too. (He’s not alone in that: Even Democratic Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley wrote that using a law clinic at a public school to support ruining a family farm “perpetrates an injustice.”) The judge noted that the Environmental Law Clinic’s submission of small-font briefs approaching the court’s page limits “not only circumvents the spirit if not the letter of the Local Rules [of civil legal procedure], but also makes for less than compelling advocacy.” Of course, it’s hard to compellingly advocate a sloppily constructed case.

We pity the Maryland taxpayers who must pay the legal fees for a group that has its own sugar daddy, and let’s hope the judge tosses this case into a litter pile. If and when that happens, we’ll be the first to tell the Waterkeepers to cry us a river.

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