Last month I announced that two farmers in Jackson County, Oregon had decided to bring a lawsuit against the county to prohibit enforcement of a countywide ban on the cultivation of genetically engineered crops. If you remember, the countywide ballot proposal was passed back in May. Implementation of that ban threatened many farmers in the county, but especially alfalfa farmers that stood to lose millions of dollars if forced to destroy their crops.
Thankfully, the farmers bringing the lawsuit were able to file a joint proposed order with the County that will stop the enforcement of the ban until the court has the opportunity to try the case.
For those not versed in legalese, the order is essentially an agreement between the parties that will stop enforcement of the ban until the lawsuit has been concluded. It is considered a “proposed” order until the judge signs and files it as part of the case. Although the farmers and the County have agreed to let the crops stay while the lawsuit is decided, the County has filed a response to the lawsuit and plan on defending the ban legally.
The other update in the case is that the County has transferred the case to a federal court. The lawsuit was originally filed by the farmers in the Jackson County Circuit Court, which is a state court. There are certainly benefits to litigating a case in federal court – especially because a plaintiff can only win with a unanimous jury, while in Oregon a jury only needs 3/4 of the members to agree. It was also suggested that the County may favor the federal court because federal judges are more familiar with these types of issues.
I think it interesting to note that other farmers in Jackson County that do not use genetically modified alfalfa wanted the ban enforced despite the lawsuit. According to Our Family Farms Coalition (gotta love the misleading campaign name!), the attorneys arguing in favor of the ban for the group include attorneys from Earthrise Law Center, part of the Lewis & Clark Law School, based in Oregon. A quick perusal of their website indicates they are a legal clinic associated with the law school that works on cases involving environmental activism through the school. However, it is a private law firm.
Read more about the lawsuit and updates at Capital Press.