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Meadowsweet Dairy Update
February 25, 2008
URGENT UPDATE - NY Change of location for the contempt hearing for Meadowsweet Dairy, Thursday, February 28th at 3:30 p.m.
The Department's motion for contempt will be heard in the surrogate's court room of the Albany County Courthouse, 16 Eagle Street, Albany, N.Y.
The courtroom is on the first floor of the courthouse, on the north side of the courthouse and at the end of the hallway.
The Meadowsweet saga of Steve and Barbara Smith continues. Back in December 2007, Steve and Barbara were the subject of an administrative search warrant that was executed twice by the Department of Agriculture and Markets. Both times Steve and Barbara had dairy products in their cooler yet the door was locked. Rather than breaking down the door on the cooler, Ag. and Mkts. both times wanted Steve and Barbara to unlock their own dairy cooler so that Ag. and Mkts. could collect evidence against them. However, the warrant that Ag. and Mkts relied on did not specifically authorize the use of force to gain access to the cooler. Because Ag. and Mkts. itself refused to break down the cooler door, they
have now filed charges in contempt against Steve and Barbara for "failing" to cooperate during the two search warrants. A contempt hearing is scheduled for February 28th at 3:30 p.m. in Albany, NY, before Judge Egan. The address to the courtroom is 50 Chapel Street.
In response to this ridiculous abuse of governmental authority, the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund has filed two motions with Judge Egan. The first, captioned a Motion to Stay, informs Judge Egan that there are two other related proceeding that are pending between these parties, an administrative hearing that was concluded on January 18, 2008, and a civil action for declaratory judgment filed by the Smiths that will likely be transferred from Seneca County Supreme Court to Albany County Supreme Court. The second motion that was filed, a Motion to Quash, asks Judge Egan to quash the search warrant that was issued in December 2007 because it violates the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Legal Defense Fund has, alternatively, asked Judge Egan to conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the search warrant should have been issued in the first place because the conduct engaged in by the Smiths and Meadowsweet Dairy LLC is not subject to regulation.
The actions taken by the Legal Defense Fund are important for several reasons. First, it brings to the attention of the Court the Department's lack of candor. Indeed, had Judge Egan been aware of the existence of the two other proceedings that revolve around the issue of whether the Smiths
and Meadowsweet are even subject to regulation, Judge Egan may not have issued the warrant in the first place. In addition, it demonstrates to Judge Egan that even the Smiths and Meadowsweeet are protected by the United States and New York Constitutions, and that the Department cannot
arbitrarily abuse its enforcement discretion. Even the Department has to honor the protections afforded by these Constitutions.
The contempt hearing is open to the public. Fund members who have the
willingness and ability to attend the contempt hearing should show their
support for the Smiths and Meadowsweet. Spread the word. This battle is
far from over.