Sunday, November 3, 2013

Letter From The Editor: A Trial Court Surprise

Friday’s ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Christina Armijo surprised me.

I was expecting New Mexico’s top federal judge to issue a permanent injunction against USDA from providing equine inspection services. Then I thought Department of Justice attorneys assigned to represent USDA would appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals where Armijo’s ruling would be reversed.

My thinking was that New Mexico’s political  leadership, from both parties, are enough anti- horse slaughter that the body politic  would influence Armijo. It was part of a stereotype I’ve created in my own mind about New Mexican political groupthink.

But surprise me she did, especially by nailing the legal reasoning I thought we would see from a 10th Circuit panel of judges. After reading Armijo’s 33-page decision, I was struck by how clear everything looks now. With some tweaking along the way, Congress has for more than a century tasked USDA with inspecting meat and meat products, be it from beef, lamb, pork, horse or whatever else has hooves.

The legal challenge was based on apparently misguided readings of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). Both are about government decision-making where discretion exists, not where government action is mandated.

USDA has a job to do, albeit one that some find unpopular. More at Food Safety News

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