Federal court will decide who represents Amos Miller; $250,000 fine at stake

Federal court will decide who represents Amos Miller; $250,000 fine at stake

by Sue Jones
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Farmer Amos Miller fired his attorney and now wants Prairie Star National, an advocacy group that may not include licensed counsel, to represent him.

But because it is not clear if the federal judge who’s been trying to enforce food safety regulations on Miller and Miller’s Organic Farm will go along.   The latest civil actions have been underway since 2019 and changing out his attorneys is a tactic Miller has used before.

Dallas attorney Steven LaFuente filed a motion to withdraw as attorney for Miller and Miller’s Organic Farm in Pennsylvania’s Eastern District court for “good cause.”

The most significant sanction Miller is facing is a $250,000 fine for being in contempt of court. Judge Edward G. Smith has held that collection in abeyance after LaFuente reported on progress Miller was making toward compliance with the various food safety requirements.

LaFuente learned on Oct. 1 that Prairie Star National from Port Orchard, WA, would be representing Miller and Miller’s Organic Farm.

LaFuente said he then contacted Prairie Star National “and asked to speak with the attorney who will be filing the Motion for Substitute Counsel. At that time, movant suspected that the advocacy group does not include licensed counsel.”

On Oct 4, LaFuente received a facsimile from Amos Miller saying that he and the farm “will now be represented by National Star Prairie” and dismissing the Dallas attorney.

LaFuente was working on finding a qualified neutral party to conduct an inventory at Miller’s Organic Farm so Miller may begin liquidating arrested products USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has not approved any candidates suggested.

In his departure motion, LaFuente said he “has experience with advocacy groups like Prairie Star National and . . . suspects that defendants have chosen to pursue a strategy with which movant has no desire to associate.”

All of this leaves the U.S. District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania in a bit of a pickle. Judge Edward G. Smith has ordered the parties to appear at 1 p.m., Nov. 1, in his Easton, PA, court. His order recognizes the “dispute regarding the defendant’s legal representation arising out communications between the defendants’ counsel and a third-party entity.”

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