In a surprising turnaround, attorney Charlie Tebbutt moved to dismiss the lawsuit he brought on behalf of Community Association for the Restoration of the Environment (CARE) against Majestic Dairy of Sunnyside, Wash. The dairy is owned by Nicholas and Janie Struikmans.
The order was signed by federal judge Thomas Rice in Spokane on Oct. 7.
The dismissal order releases the Struikmans from any further litigation by the plaintiff, but reserves the right to file additional action against the dairy.
Dan Wood, executive director of the Washington State Dairy Federation, stated that according to Gary Baise, a D.C. attorney retained by the dairy to defend the farm against the lawsuit, it was Tebbutt who moved for the case to be dismissed. Reasons for this action were not included in the order nor provided by attorney Baise.
Baise, principal in the Washington D.C. lawfirm of Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz, is considered one of the top environmental attorneys in Washington D.C. As a trial lawyer he has represented many agricultural related clients as well as port authorities, construction companies, etc. He serves as general counsel for U.S. Grains Council, Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA), National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), and National Sorghum Producers (NSP).
Wood was instrumental in assisting the Struikmans in retaining the services of attorney Baise.
“We’ve had the privilege of working with Gary on the EPA nitrate report issue and his deep experience in federal environmental law no doubt played a role in the outcome of this litigation,” Wood said.
Wood also commented on the potential impact of this dismissal. He noted that many have chosen to settle rather than face the costs of going to court.
“This case sends a clear message to those dairy farmers being sued by Mr. Tebbutt or whom he may choose to sue in the future. Don’t settle. We believe this case will show that with the right representation and the testimony of expert witnesses as Mr. Baise arranged, these lawsuits can be successfully resolved without the farm-destroying requirements that Tebbutt typically imposes in settlements.”
The Dairy Federation and Save Family Farming have complained that the numerous cases filed by Tebbutt against dairy farms in Washington state would be rejected by the courts if the Department of Ecology would defend its Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) permit.
Save Family Farming’s executive director Gerald Baron explained:
“Federal law such as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) used by attorney Tebbutt against farmers says that when designated enforcement agencies are enforcing environmental laws, these citizen lawsuits are not allowed. Even though Ecology issued a comprehensive permit in addition to environmental laws and regulations enforced by the Washington State Department of Agriculture, the state stands by while this attorney rewrites the state’s environmental laws through these punitive settlements.”
The state-wide farm advocacy group earlier produced a document titled “Farm Friendly Policies” that includes the call for the state to begin protecting its own permit and enforcement duties.