One of two civil court cases opened by Amos Miller and making their way through the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals was dismissed last week for a “lack of appellate jurisdiction.”
The Upper Leacock-based Amish farmer making national headlines for his battle with the federal government over food safety regulations and farm inspections originally filed the “interlocutory appeal” case in April, challenging comments made by Judge Edward G. Smith in an April 22 phone conference.
In his appeal, Miller said the “judge was acting irrationally and beyond the confines of public policy” when he commented during the phone conference “that the bonds in the affidavit of notice have no value.”
After the conference, Smith ordered Miller to make “good faith” payments of $50,000 to the court and $55,065 to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) for reimbursement of inspection costs of Miller’s Organic Farm.
Miller requested in the appeal for the court to release a recording of the April 22 conference to him. According to court rules, telephone conferences involving all the parties involved are not released as public records.
Circuit Court judges Cheryl Ann Krause, Paul Matey and Peter Phipps, who were overseeing the case, ruled on Aug. 30 that the appellate court lacked jurisdiction over the appeal.
“There is no basis for jurisdiction over Appellant’s appeal, which seeks to appeal ‘comments’ by the District Court but fails to identify any specific order being appealed,” Circuit Judge Cheryl Ann Krause said in the order.
Miller has 45 days to seek a review of the court’s decision.
On the same day the court ruled on the first civil case, a second interlocutory appeal filed by Miller was permitted to go to the briefing stage.
In his May 10 appeal, Miller challenges Judge Smith’s decision to retain Dallas-based attorney Steven Lafuente as his lawyer. Late in 2021, Miller asked to remove Lafuente as his lawyer for the case, but Smith would not accept the motion.
The appeal charges that Judge Smith determined “that Amos Miller does not have the right to choose his own attorney” and that the decision was made in “error” and that the “judge was acting irrationally and beyond the confines of public policy.”
“Upon further review, it appears that it would not be appropriate to submit this appeal to a panel of the Court for possible dismissal due to a jurisdictional defect,” Judge Krause said in the order. “This order does not represent a finding that the Court has jurisdiction to hear the appeal in this case; as in all cases, the panel of this Court that reviews the case on its merits will make a final determination regarding this Court’s jurisdiction.”
The court ordered that a brief on behalf of Miller be filed by Oct. 11.
A Sept. 26 show cause hearing is still scheduled in Easton with Judge Smith to decide whether Miller could go to jail for non-payment of the more than $300,000 in outstanding fines in the longstanding court case over meat processing on the farm.
Fundraising Efforts and Support
Donations to Miller’s legal fund continued to pour in during the last week. A GiveSendGo fundraising account created in August raised an additional $20,000 since last week, growing to more than $152,000.
The Lancaster Patriot also released a video on Monday highlighting Miller’s case. Created by local cinematographer Jeffery Kauffman of Lancaster-based Bold Oaks Media video production company, the eight-minute video features commentary from Miller on the future of the farming operation as well as long-time customers of his business.
Staff writer Michael Yoder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @YoderReports on Twitter.