Farmer Michael Hartmann has been battling the Minnesota Department of Agriculture for close to a decade. On October 7, 2013, Hartmann received a little support from an unexpected source when a Minnesota judge ruled that the December 2012 search-and-seizure of Hartmann’s raw milk and cheese truck was illegal.
Judge Erica MacDonald ruled that the state trooper who stopped Hartmann’s dairy truck because he couldn’t see the rear license plate was obligated to send Hartmann on his way once he realized the plate was just dirty and that, additionally, Hartmann had a front license plate, since there was no violation of motor vehicle or traffic laws. Instead, the trooper called the MDA, which instructed him to search the truck and confiscate his product.
She condemns the illegal search-and-seizure in a 30-page opinion and notes that the instance is just one in what has been a decade of harassment by the department and investigator James Roettger, who “…has been investigating Defendant’s possible violations of food laws for approximately ten years.”
Beyond the search-and-seizure, Judge MacDonald endorsed the 2005 Minnesota Supreme Court ruling of a previous case involving Hartmann that upheld his constitutional right to sell products of his farm, including meat, cheese and butter.
In her ruling, the judge makes it clear that she felt obligated to uphold Hartmann’s constitutional rights despite her personal dislike of the defendant and his blatant disregard for the terms of his probation. As journalist David Gumpert notes, “That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Judges are supposed to back the constitutional rights of all Americans, despite the judges’ own personal prejudices.”
Read more about Judge MacDonald’s opinion on Gumpert’s blog here:
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