“The federal judge hearing the government case to prevent Amish farmer Daniel Allgyer from shipping raw milk to members of a Maryland food club has issued his first ruling, and initial thoughts on the case.
At first read, he seems negatively inclined toward the rights of consumers to access the foods of their choice. And in seeking to keep the case focused on only the government’s contention that Allgyer violated federal law in shipping raw milk to the Maryland food club, the judge seems similarly negative. It’s not fun reading if you were hoping that at least federal judges might be sensitive to such things as rights of private groups to access the foods of their choosing.
What prompted Judge Stengel’s initial ruling and comments on the case was a motion filed by Aajonus Vonderplanitz to intervene in the case via a “cross complaint in intervention.” Essentially, Vonderplanitz filed his complaint as a way to argue the case on behalf of Allgyer who, as an Amish, is prohibited under his religious beliefs from actively engaging in legal actions. Vonderplanitz was also acting on behalf of his organization, Right to Choose Healthy Food, which had provided the membership and leasing arrangements under which the private Maryland food club operated.
The judge in his decision denied Vonderplanitz’s complaint, primarily because he isn’t a lawyer. This has been a hot button for judges in several cases involving raw milk. Judges only want to deal with others in their fraternity.
The judge concluded: “Although an individual may represent himself pro se, ‘he is not entitled to act as an attorney for others in a federal court'” under what the judge said were well established precedent and rules.
Vonderplanitz had argued there were extenuating circumstances that made his cross complaint acceptable, but the judge wouldn’t hear of them. “Mr. Vonderplanitz maintains the individuals and associations contracted with him to represent them, have been unable to find or afford counsel, and many have had ‘negative experiences’ with attorneys. Moreover, the GrassFed Club members would like to remain anonymous because they fear government retribution. The requirement that a person can be represented only by a licensed attorney or can represent himself, however, cannot be altered because of a contract with a lay person, because of an inability to find an attorney, because of a dislike of attorneys, or because some proposed interveners would like to remain anonymous.”
The judge was equally unsympathetic to the argument that the government’s complaint for a permanent injunction barring Allgyer from shipping milk to the food club in Maryland will deprive them of essential nutrient-dense foods. “Mr. Vonderplanitz‟s claims of an interest in the case are sweeping, generalized, and grandiose. He believes if the FDA prevails in this lawsuit, the people he is attempting to represent would be deprived of food from their animals and deprived of ‘nourishment, life, liberty and better health.’… This interest is not a legally cognizable interest sufficient to establish intervention…”
Bottom line: “Mr. Vonderplanitz cannot represent the other individuals and entities because he is not a licensed attorney.” Implied: Too bad if people can’t get their food. …”