Court will likely name food safety expert Lapsley to sort out the Amos Miller mess

Food safety expert George D. Lapsley is in line for the court’s appointment to sort out the mess known as the Amos Miller matter.

Assistant U.S. attorneys Gregory B. David and Gerald B. Sullivan proposed naming Lapsley as an expert in the case to assist the court by 1.) monitoring whether defendants are complying with the court’s enforcement orders, 2.) helping to facilitate specific provisions in those orders, 3.) submitting written reports, and 4.) providing testimony.

The motion, filed in the U.S. Circuit Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, asks anyone to show why Miller and Miller’s Organic Farm should not be held in further contempt of the court’s November 2019 Injunction Order and April 2020 Consent Decree, and the July 22, 2021, Contempt Sanctions order.

They’re asking federal Judge Edward Smith to consider appointing Lapsley as the court’s expert, saying he is widely known to the parties. Miller put his name forward as an independent third party.

Although USDA-FSIS promptly approved Lapsley for that role — to inventory Miller’s meat and poultry — he withdrew from further consideration when he and Miller could not reach a contractual agreement, the motion said.

Lapsley has since expressed interest in serving in a neutral role in the case.

The government attorneys represent USDA-FSIS against Miller and Miller’s Organic Farm, located at Bird-In-Hand PA. They want to shut down Miller’s amenable meat and poultry operations, sales, and related activities. They want the court’s expert to conduct the meat and poultry inventory and likely conduct the liquidation of meat and poultry items.

In recent months, Miller attempted to replace his Dallas attorney with a sovereign citizen organization out of Washington State. Judge Smith vetoed the move.

“The enforcement litigation at this stage — with the Court and the government still seeking to avoid more-coercive civil contempt remedies such as imprisonment — thus presents the somewhat rare circumstance where Rule 706 court appointment of an impartial expert is appropriate and necessary to advance the interests of justice,” the government’s motion says.

George Lapsley Enterprises has been an independent contractor for food safety in business since 1996. He has a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Pennsylvania State University and a masters degree from Temple University. He also did graduate work in meat and food science at California State University-Chico.

Whether Lapsley is appointed as the court’s expert won’t be known until 10 a.m. On Feb. 3, 2022, when Judge Smith takes up the “Show Cause” order at the federal courthouse in Easton, PA.

Smith will hear oral arguments on further injunctive relief and civil contempt sanctions. Under the July contempt finding, Miller was fined $250,000, but Smith has its collection on hold.

Smith ordered Steven LaFuente, the Dallas attorney Miller fired, to serve the defendants with a copy of his latest order. The judge has not yet released LaFuent from the case.

The government first brought the current civil action against Miller on April 4, 2019. Miller farms in at least two states and is a multistate meat and poultry distributor with a club system for buyers.

Separately, government attorneys have prepared a 55-page proposed order for Smith’s consideration in February. It is a “facts and the law” document that outlines what Miller must do.

“The Court will use the following benchmarks to determine such compliance that would allow defendants to purge and have returned any remaining part of the deposited fine:

  • First: Defendants and their agents must immediately cease all meat-and-poultry-related operations, sales, and other activities as provided in the injunction provisions above.
  • Second: Consistent with the injunction provisions above, defendants shall complete an inventory under the direction and to the satisfaction of the Court-appointed expert in this matter.
  • Third: Following completion of the inventory, defendants shall complete product liquidations and dispositions as provided in the injunction provisions above, under the direction and to the satisfaction of the Court-appointed expert.
  • Fourth: If after those first three steps are completed to the Court-appointed expert’s and FSIS’s satisfaction, defendants — if they wish to resume or commence amenable meat or poultry operations— must establish to the Court-appointed expert’s and FSIS’s satisfaction that they have applied for, obtained, and are otherwise compliant with applicable licensing, grant, exemption, and record-keeping requirements that would allow such operations to occur.
  • Fifth: If defendants satisfy that fourth benchmark, then (and only then) can they begin applicable meat and poultry operations with some monitoring, full disclosure, adequate recordkeeping practices, and cooperation with FSIS, until such time as the Court determines that monitoring is no longer necessary.

Unless and until defendants meet all of those benchmarks, the $250,000 fine shall be used (consistent with defendants’ earlier-stated concern that any fine amount be used to fund their compliance efforts) to pay for the Court-appointed expert’s costs and fees.”

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