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Berlin couple pay price for tax-supported suit


No matter how you look it at it, two of the defendants in a federal trial taking place in U.S. District Court this week in Baltimore are getting a raw deal.

Alan and Kristin Hudson, whose farm is at the center of the lawsuit, Waterkeeper Alliance Inc. v. Alan and Kristin Hudson Farm and Perdue Farms Inc., could lose everything courtesy of taxpayer dollars.

They are being sued along with Perdue by the Waterkeeper Alliance, which is being represented by the University of Maryland’s Environmental Law Clinic.

The issue here has nothing to do with whether the Hudsons poultry farm, which contracts with Perdue, pollutes a neighboring stream, as is alleged in the suit, but is that they are being prosecuted by one tax-supported government agency after being cleared by another tax-supported government agency.

The Waterkeeper’s suit contends that the state’s regulatory bodies charged with enforcing the Clean Water Act failed to do their job when they found no violations on the Hudsons’ farm.

Considering those agencies’ findings, which this lawsuit does not, what were the Hudsons supposed do, say “we disagree with your conclusions?”

The Waterkeeper’s beef would then be with those two agencies, not the Hudsons, who, unlike the university’s law clinic, can’t draw on the state treasury to mount their legal defense.

Perdue, of course, is big enough to take care of itself and will certainly do that, as it argues that the Hudsons did no wrong, but in any case are contractors and not employees of the company.

So there the Hudsons sit, at the center of a multi-milliondollar bulls-eye courtesy of a government system that essentially is suing itself, but is sticking them with the tab.

Regardless of the outcome of this week’s proceedings, this is a case of punishment before the trial, with the punishment being meted out courtesy of your tax dollars at work. It isn’t right, and the Maryland General Assembly should address government-subsidized private party lawsuits in its next session.

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