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Judge: Raw milk advocate must comply with subpoena

By Matt Johnson | LaCrosse Tribune

VIROQUA - An advocate for unpasteurized milk was ordered Monday to provide a state deposition on his role in distributing raw dairy products.

Vernon County Circuit Court Judge Michael Rosborough ruled that the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection had the right to question Max Kane Farley, who goes by Max Kane, about Belle's Lunchbox, a Chicago-based private club that offered raw dairy products.

DATCP had subpoenaed Kane to answer questions about the distribution or sale of those products.

With a few exceptions, milk distributed to the public in Wisconsin must be Class A pasteurized by someone licensed to do so.

Kane said Monday that the Web site for Belle's Lunchbox had been taken down and the member-owned club would disband by the end of the year.

Kane met June 18 with state Assistant Attorney General Phillip Ferris for a deposition, but Ferris said he never put Kane under oath because it was "crystal clear" he wouldn't answer questions.

Ferris said Kane would be immune from prosecution for anything said in the deposition.

But Kane said the June 18 meeting turned out to be unexpected and intimidating. He had hoped to ask about DATCP's involvement with a federal Food and Drug Administration investigation, he said, and feared his immunity would not hold up in other states or with federal authorities.

Rosborough said that immunity would stand against federal and state authorities. The only way Kane could be prosecuted is on evidence discovered outside the deposition.

Kane cannot claim a Fifth Amendment right to remain silent against the subpoena, Rosborough said, and could be cited for contempt of court if he fails to answer.

DATCP is investigating Belle's Lunchbox for distribution of milk products without a license.

"If Mr. Kane is not a producer or farmer, he would be a contractor and that requires a license," Ferris said.

Kane, who represented himself in court, argued that being forced into the deposition was against his right to due process. He also objected on Constitutional grounds and asked that the case be dismissed.

"I believe this is just bigger than me," Kane said. "It has to do with people of the state who appreciate the right to consume raw milk."

But Rosborough said his decision had nothing to do with raw milk. The judge also called Kane's arguments "exceedingly primitive" and "ridiculous."

Though respectful in court, Kane would have been better served with an attorney, Rosborough said. "It was Abraham Lincoln who said, ‘A man who represents himself has a fool for a client.'"

Kane afterward said it was "an outrage" to be ordered to comply with the deposition.

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