So the other legal shoe finally dropped yesterday: as they promised, the forces lined up against the Maui County GMO Initiative filed suit in U.S. District Court in Honolulu against the County of Maui to have the measure overturned (click here for Honolulu Civil Beat’s story on the filing, which also contains a pdf of the lawsuit itself). The measure, which becomes law when the state Elections Office gets around to certifying the 2014 Election results, places a two-year “moratorium” on the growing of genetically engineered crops in Maui County while growers pay for studies on GMO health and safety.
“The Ordinance violates federal, state and local law, and is predicated on purported ‘findings’ that are directly at odds with decades of settled science and more than one hundred federal agency expert scientific determinations,” states the suit. The lawsuit argues that only the state–not counties–can legally regulate ag issues. It also states the initiative violates county law by “appropriating money despite an explicit limitation on using the initiative power for that purpose, providing penalties far beyond what the Charter allows, imposing improper constraints on the County Council, supplanting the executive power of the Mayor, and assessing an invalid, multimillion dollar tax on agricultural interests.” For these reasons, the plaintiffs argue that the court should enjoin and then invalidate the initiative.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of eight entities–including Monsanto and Agrigenetics (dba Mycogen Seeds)–lists 10 attorneys from three firms for the the plaintiffs. One of the firms, Washington, DC-based Latham & Watkins, is one of the largest and most powerful law firms in the world, employing 2,000 attorneys on three continents. The firm brings in about $2 billion in revenue a year.
By contrast, the lawsuit filed on Wednesday by the SHAKA Movement and five individuals (also against the County of Maui as well as Monsanto and Dow) that apparently seeks to make sure SHAKA has significant say in the County’s legal defense of the initiative listed but two attorneys from the Honolulu law firm Bays Lung Rose & Holma. According to that firm’s website, Bays et al typically handles real estate law.
But this is why we’ve polarized the county, right? Got everyone so worked up and scared that many of them actually went out and voted? It’s all so we could tie up the issue in the courts through suits, counter-suits and appeals, guaranteeing that the big firms get billable hours for the rest of the decade (and journalists like me get to write about the ensuing carnage). Given the fact that the County of Maui is a defendant in both the above lawsuits,* we can only hope that taxpayers–who ultimately get the privilege of paying for all this–at least get an interesting fight to watch.
*Editorial disclosure: MauiTime Owner/Publisher Tommy Russo is currently suing the County of Maui over a 2011 incident involving the Maui Police Department.
Photo of famed Simpsons attorney Lionel Hutz: MauiTime