The R-CALF USA legal challenge of the Beef Checkoff Program went before a federal judge in Great Falls, Montana, Oct. 25. Both Bill Bullard, R-CALF USA CEO, and outside legal counsel David Muraskin, Public Justice, were happy with the results.
“I was very pleased with how the hearing went today,” Muraskin said. “The court was extraordinarily well prepared and well versed on the issue having read all of the briefs and a number of the key cases.”
Muraskin said the judge seemed highly attuned to what is the crux of the case, which is whether the government can place the onus on ranchers to opt out of a system that forces them to turn money over to a private entity to engage in private speech. Muraskin felt the judge really pressed the government hard on this issue.
R-CALF filed a suit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture in May, alleging that the agency’s Beef Checkoff is being unconstitutionally used to promote international beef to the detriment of U.S beef products and producers.
“The judge pressed the government on how it could possibly think this private entity was engaged in government speech, which would be exempt from these rules, rather than private speech,” Muraskin said.
Bullard said he believes the government has misstated R-CALF’s case from the beginning. This case was not just about the lack of an opt-out procedure, according to Bullard.
“Our case from the beginning was that it was simply unconstitutional for the government to compel our members to pay for private speech that we disagreed with,” Bullard said. “That is the crux of this case and I believe the judge understood this.”
No action was taken at this hearing. The judge said he would rule shortly but no exact date for a judgment in this case was given. Muraskin said if there was a significant delay in a ruling on this case they could file in another jurisdiction but he did not think this would be necessary.
Doug Rich can be reached at 785-749-5304 or firstname.lastname@example.org.