Willet Dairy is awarded partial return of attorney fees

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FABIUS, N.Y. — After nine years of litigation in U.S. District Court, Judge Frederick J. Scullin has ruled in favor of Willet Dairy, Genoa, and declared the suit brought against it by a few of its neighbors as “frivolous” and ordered a portion of attorney fees returned to the farm.

No evidentiary support

Judge Scullin wrote that the “plaintiffs should have known that they had no evidentiary support to establish an ongoing violation of existing permits and the plaintiff’s proceeded to court without evidence to establish essential elements of their claims.”

The farm family has always maintained it compliance with federal and state laws, even in the face of complaints the farm failed to manage its animal wastes properly.

Willet Dairy has repeatedly been reviewed by federal and state authorities.

Regulators

Regulators from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and state and local health departments have all concluded the dairy is in compliance with state and federal laws.

During the course of the lawsuit four separate federal court decisions have all ruled in favor of Willet Dairy. Some of the farm’s neighbors are its strongest supporters.

Management plan

Willet Dairy has a comprehensive nutrient management plan that is scientifically engineered to reduce the farm’s environmental footprint and to make sure manure is only recycled on fields at a rate that crops need.

This plan is developed by a certified planner who has completed rigorous training.

This certification program is administered by the NYS Soil and Water Conservation Committee, NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the DEC.

Statement of support

Return of attorney fees is a significant statement in support of the farm. “A prevailing defendant can recover fees only when the court finds that litigation was ‘frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless,’ or that the plaintiff continued to litigate after it clearly became so,” wrote Scullin.

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