Posted October 7, 2013
 
A Superior Court Judge in Washington has dismissed a lawsuit against the “No on I-522” campaign and the Grocery Manufacturers Association and imposed a $10,000 fine against the plaintiff, according to an article by the Olympian, available here.
 
The plaintiff, a group called “Moms for Labeling,” filed its complaint in Thurston County Superior Court against the group “No on 522” and The Grocery Manufacturers’ Association.  The plaintiff asked for declaratory and injunctive relief, seeking campaign finance disclosure for the food industry over ballot Initiative 522.  The complaint is available here.  The defendant, “No of 522” campaign has raised a record $17.2 million to oppose the initiative, with $7.2 million of it coming from the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
 
Superior Court Judge Chris Wickham dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that it was filed prematurely because the plaintiff did not abide by the mandatory 45-day waiting period for this type of claim.  Judge Wickham fined the plaintiff $10,000 and ordered it to pay the defendants’ attorneys fees under an anti-SLAPP law “originally meant to shield citizens from harassing corporate lawsuits.” Judge Wickman also noted that an ongoing complaint at the state Public Disclosure Commission was the appropriate venue for the campaign-finance challenge. 
 
Washington Initiative 522 would require labeling for genetically engineered foods and is on the November 5, 2013 general election ballot.  If passed by voters, the initiative would become effective in July of 2015.  The labeling requirement would apply to raw agricultural commodities, processed foods, and seeds and seed stock, with some exceptions.  It would authorize state enforcement, civil penalties for non-compliance, and allow private citizen enforcement.  The full text of Initiative 522 is available here
 
Michelle Radosevich, attorney for the “No on 522” campaign said, “The judge gave use a complete victory…and vindicated our position that this was an inappropriate use of the courts to try to enforce campaign finance rules.”
 
Knoll Lowney, attorney for the “Moms for Labeling” group, who filed the lawsuit, said that the “case is not over” and if the state does not act in the 45 day time period, the group will be authorized to bring its lawsuit back to Superior Court.

 

For more information on Washington Initiative 522, a recent post from this blog is available here.  

A recent article on “Non-GMO Labeling” by Staff Attorneys for the National Agricultural Law Center is available here.  For more information on food labeling and biotechnology, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s website here and here.