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Appeal judges sympathetic to both sides at Canadian border h

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Feb 10, 2005
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Appeal judges sympathetic to both sides at Canadian border hearing

by Pete Hisey on 7/14/2005 for Meatingplace.com

A packed courtroom and an overflow room where the proceedings were broadcast on an oversized television screen watched as judges from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals questioned lawyers from USDA and rancher's groups led by Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America concerning the reopening of the Canadian border to live cattle.

On the whole, the judges seemed sympathetic to USDA's position, suggesting that Judge Richard Cebull, the federal judge in Billings, Mont., who granted R-CALF the temporary injunction that has kept the border closed since early March, was merely disagreeing with the Agriculture Secretary's decision, and the legal system should show deference to that decision.

R-CALF's lawyer shot back that USDA has ignored its own science when it is convenient and was ignoring its mandate to put the health of Americans above all other concerns.

According to Bill Bullard, chief executive of R-CALF, the judges "asked very probing questions about what inconsistencies were in the record that showed that USDA was not following sound science." Russell Frye, attorney for the rancher group, pointed out that "the lower court found that USDA made a political decision, then worked backward to justify that decision on scientific grounds," Bullard told Meatingplace.com. "We pointed out several of their arbitrary decisions, such as the decision to allow beef from cattle of all ages into the country, but only live cattle under 30 months as an example, and we contend that because of such decisions, the presumptive deference most agencies are granted should not be granted in this case."

The hearing lasted only 40 minutes, and the panel of judges did not indicate when, or if, it would reach a decision. With the actual trial scheduled for July 27, it is likely that the panel will reserve judgment until after the trial.

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