Kennedy Tossed from Court—Again
February 26, 2003
by Alex A. Avery
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. can’t seem to catch a break in his ongoing war against hog farming. A couple of years ago Kennedy announced that he was going to “put an end to [the hog industry].” Yet he and the activist group he leads, the Waterkeepers Alliance, have repeatedly been thrown out of court.
The court tossings started in March of 2001 when a state court judge in North Carolina ruled that the Waterkeepers Alliance had “failed to state a single claim” that would warrant a trial. The Waterkeepers appealed that verdict and a three-judge panel of the North Carolina Court of Appeals unanimously rejected the appeal on December 31, 2002. The judges ruled that the Waterkeepers failed to show harm and that only the state has the power “to seek non-individualized, or public, remedies for alleged harm to public waters.”
This past summer, a class-action suit filed in a federal court in Tampa, Florida, by Kennedy’s law firm was also thrown out of court. Worse for Kennedy, the judge concluded that the lawyers involved had submitted “frivolous motions” and ordered Kennedy’s law firm to repay the legal expenses of the defendant, Smithfield Foods.
Federal judge Elizabeth Kovachevich wrote in her dismissal that the plaintiffs “failed to state anything at all” worthwhile, and that “no reasonable attorney could reasonably believe that [the lawsuit] had any reasonable chance of success.” Hence the penalty of repaying the legal costs of the defendant—a strong indication that the judge saw through the activists’ front.
Despite these repeated rebukes of their attempts to sue the hog industry out of existence, Waterkeepers attorney Dan Estrin told the Associated Press that two other federal lawsuits pending in North Carolina are “alive and well.” If history is any indicator, both of these lawsuits are living on borrowed time.
The flurry of lawsuits are part of a long-running campaign by environmental extremists to drive intensive hog production out of the United States, and part of a larger strategy aimed at all intensive livestock and poultry producers. In December of 2000 Mr. Kennedy said, “We’re starting with hogs. After we get done with the hogs, then we’re gonna go after the other ones.”
The demonization of hog farmers and the hog industry by Mr. Kennedy, the Waterkeepers Alliance, and other groups has become appalling. In the Spring of 2002, Mr. Kennedy said “large-scale hog producers were a greater threat to the United States and democracy than bin Laden’s terrorist network” while speaking in Iowa at a conference on “sustainable” hog farming.
Have the Waterkeepers never considered the threat to democracy of extremist groups attempting to achieve in the courts what they could not achieve via the appropriate legislative channels? Thank goodness multiple judges have seen through the activist’s charade and treated them appropriately—by making them pay.
Alex Avery is director of research and education for the Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues.