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Accordingly, he ruled that the parties must either withstand a trial and present evidence regarding whether the checkoff program constitutes government speech...

 

 

Beef Checkoff Litigation
Avoids Trial On Factual Issues

The Honorable Richard F. Cebull, United States District Court Judge for the District of Montana, entered an order on August 30, 2002, that averts a trial on factual issues in dispute in the legal battle over the Beef Checkoff Program filed by Montana ranchers Steve and Jeanne Charter and the Center for Individual Freedom. This legal twist comes in response to cross-motions filed by the parties requesting the court to summarily rule on the constitutionality of the checkoff program.

In order to rule on either motion, Judge Cebull opined that no issues of material fact could remain. Accordingly, he ruled that the parties must either withstand a trial and present evidence regarding whether the checkoff program constitutes government speech, or, alternatively, stipulate that the record on this factual issue be limited to exhibits and testimony already before the court and the trial transcript from a similar case involving the Livestock Marketing Association ("LMA"). In May, the federal judge presiding over the LMA case in South Dakota ruled the checkoff program unconstitutional. The LMA case awaits review by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in Minnesota.

The parties (including the intervenors) in the Charters’ case agreed to the stipulation, which in effect is a ruling on the factual issues as if there were a trial. The trial order (originally set for September 23rd) has been vacated and the parties await Judge Cebull’s ruling. Not having to reinvent legal wheels and eliminating the burdens of discovery are positive for both sides. Kelly Varnes, counsel for the Charters and the Center, hopes we will have a decision by the end of the year.

For more on the Center’s involvement in the battle over the Beef Checkoff, click here


[Posted September 5, 2002]