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Foul Call: Was SCOTUS Turkey Case Denial Correct?

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

Around the holidays, we try to find a kind of connection between the revelry-of-the-moment and the law.

December is easy, thanks to the never-ending gift that is holiday displays and the Establishment Clause. Thanksgiving is a bit harder. Luckily, the Supreme Court denied cert to consider an interlocutory appeal in a turkey case, House of Raeford Farms v. U.S., last month; we’re going to run with it.

A North Carolina federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment in 2009 against House of Raeford Farms, charging the company with 14 counts of violating the Clean Water Act. The indictment alleged that Raeford Farms knowingly bypassed its water treatment system at its Raeford turkey processing plant 14 times between 2005 and 2006, sending turkey wastewater directly to the city's municipal sewage treatment works, reports The National Provisioner.

The Raeford Farms processing plant treatment system allegedly couldn't handle the daily flow of 1 million gallons of wastewater containing "turkey feathers, blood, internal organs and other body parts" and the company's "employees in the processing area would not release the untreated wastewater at a slower rate," according to The Post and Courier.

Raeford claimed in its interlocutory appeal that criminal prosecution of the matter would be double jeopardy because the company already paid fines for the same infractions. The government countered that double jeopardy does not preclude prosecution because, even if the local fines against Raeford Farms could be imputed to the federal government, "the Double Jeopardy Clause does not prevent the imposition of both a civil sanction and a criminal punishment for the same conduct."

The Supreme Court established a three-part test for interlocutory appeals under Lauro Lines s.r.l. v. Chasser. The Court reasoned that an interlocutory appeal is only appropriate if the resulting case would "conclusively determine the disputed question, resolve an important issue completely separate from the merits of the action, and be effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment."

Do you think the Supreme Court should have heard Raeford Farms' interlocutory appeal based on the Lauro Lines criteria?

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