Supreme Court asked to study feedlot issue
The ongoing feedlot issue in Dodge County that appeared to be sent out to pasture after years of court battles is not over, after all.
Lowell and Evelyn Trom of Westfield Township filed a petition with the Minnesota Supreme Court Tuesday afternoon asking the state’s highest court to review the feedlot controversy that has been swirling in southern Dodge County since 2014.
James Peters, attorney for the Troms, said Dodge County and Masching Swine Farms have 20 days to respond to the petition. The Supreme Court then has 40 more days to issue a decision on whether it will look at the case. In April, the Minnesota Court of Appeals threw out the feedlot case based on a legal technicality and issued no decision on the merits of the case. The appeals court said the Troms did not serve county officials properky when they issued the lawsuit in 2015.
Peters argues that there wasn’t a technicality in the first place for the appeals court to pitch the case. He said Judge Joseph Chase got the ruling right when he decided that the Troms had properly served the county.
“There never was a technicality to kick it out on,” Peters said. “The Court of Appeals didn’t want to handle the appeal because it’s such a controversial issue.”
Peters said there are inconsistent Supreme Court decisions on the issue of service involving lawsuits. In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled one way, but then issued a conflicting decision about three years later, according to Peters.
While acknowledging it is extremely difficult to get the Supreme Court to even look at a case, Peters said, “It seems to me they should take it and clarify what rules they want judges to follow.”
He said the current case law “doesn’t make any sense.”
At issue is whether the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office served the lawsuit to the county through the board chairman properly in January 2015.
At the time, the lawsuit was served on Rodney Peterson, who was the chairman of the board up until a day before the lawsuit was served.
John Allen replaced Peterson on Jan. 6, but the Troms claim they weren’t aware of the change because the sheriff’s office never told them.
The sitting chairperson of the board or county auditor is required by law to be served with lawsuits involving the county.
On the local district level, Judge Chase ruled the county was served properly. However, the Court of Appeals disagreed and tossed out the appeal without digging into the claims any further.
The legal battle over the feedlots has been going on for three years. The Troms are fighting against a large hog operation that was approved by the county next to their farm in Westfield Township.
Throughout the fight, the Troms have been urging officials to address public health and environmental concerns related to factory farms.
Masching Swine Farms was the 11th feedlot to be built within a several mile radius near the Trom family farm.
The Troms won the initial lawsuit, but the county then changed up the rules, paving the way for Masching to build the feedlot.
Last year, Judge Chase ruled in favor of the county.