In action in a food safety court case next week, Amos Miller, counsel for the parties and the court’s appointed expert, are summoned to an on-the-record telephone status conference. Federal Judge Edward G. Smith ordered all involved to dial in at 1 p.m., March 9.
The status conference will be the first since Smith named Geroge Lapsley as the court’s expert. The federal civil litigation to bring Miller and his Miller’s Organic Farm into compliance with federal food safety requirements is one month short of three years old.
After Lapsley’s appointment, Smith granted the government’s prior motion citing Miller with further Contempt of Court. Filed last November, that motion said:
“In a June 2021 show cause motion, the United States chronicled how Miller’s had flouted the Court’s orders and the Federal Meat Inspection and Poultry Act since the entry of the injunction Products Inspection Acts— a history that the government will not reiterate here.
“In response, over several days of hearings, the Court found Miller’s in civil contempt of the Court’s orders and entered contempt sanctions in a July 22, 2021 order.
“During the contempt hearings, the Court admonished Mr. Miller against again unilaterally seeking to depart from the requirements of the Court’s orders without applying to the Court or consulting with counsel or the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
“The Court insisted that Mr. Miller be “‘forthright about what you’re doing rather than continuing to operate ‘in a hidden way,’ which would not ‘bode well for you.’ ”
The recent order, from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, also denies Dallas attorney Steven Lafuente’s motion to be released as Miller’s attorney. Miller wanted to replace Lafuente with a so-called “sovereign citizen” organization, but that was not allowed.
The judge’s order also includes a warning about a tactic some anti-government types have used. It said: “The court again admonishes its audience that the act of filing false liens against the property of a federal judge or federal law enforcement officer is a federal crime, punishable by up to 10 years of imprisonment.”
And in a sovereign-sounding document Miller filed on Feb. 28, the Amish agri-businessman claims he is no longer a U.S. Citizen.
Ahead of next week’s status conference, the court has raised the possibility it is being “played” by Miller.
“Throughout this litigation, the United States has argued that Amos Miller is not the easy-to-manipulate simpleton that his counsel has sometimes portrayed him as but is, instead, a savvy — if unwise — businessman whose modus operandi over many years has been: (a) to plead and feign ignorance of laws he does not wish to comply with; (b) to refuse to cooperate with regulators when he believes he can evade them; (c) to comply with only so much of judicial orders as he believes necessary for enforcement actions to be dismissed or to become dormant; (d) to defend his knowing non-compliance through post hoc self-justifications; and (e) generally to treat FSIS’s cooperative outreach to — and accommodations of — his business as the actions of a paper tiger and regulatory system that can be gamed.
“In the United States’ view, for example, sovereign citizen advocacy group Prairie Star National has not taken advantage of Mr. Miller and misled him into non-compliance. Rather, the United States maintains that — after Mr. Miller intentionally flouted the court’s Contempt Sanctions Order in August and September 2021, and after he realized that FSIS had become aware of his illegality — he strategically turned to Prairie Star National to assist his knowing efforts to impede FSIS’s regulatory authority, circumvent the court’s orders, and avoid the effects of his contempt violations.
“In other words, the government says, Mr. Miller concluded that it was to his greater advantage in avoiding his legal obligations to have a non-attorney advocate argue that the court lacks jurisdiction — at least over him personally — and that the court’s orders were non-binding than to continue to retain an attorney who would advise him to comply with the law and those orders.”
The original Contempt of Court finding against Miller included a $250,000 fine payable within 30 days. A month later, the judge held the fine “in abeyance” but warned Miller that he needed to be “honest and forthright,” including about his slaughtering activities, because “there is a real belief that he has been hiding what he’s been doing, that he has been, basically, trying to play a game with the Government enforcers and that game can’t be allowed to continue.”
A day after that warning, an unnamed informant told USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) personnel that Miller was again slaughtering and processing meat without inspections at his School Road property, adjacent to Miller’s main farm.
“Particularly concerning and probative here is what FSIS’s investigation then revealed about Mr. Miller’s activities between July 22, 2021, (the date of the Contempt Sanctions Order) and September 8, 2021, (when he first learned that FSIS was investigating his operations on the adjacent farm).”
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