Report: Ex-AG puzzled by delay in Okla. chicken case

Jessica M. Karmasek Aug. 29, 2011, 12:00pm


OKLAHOMA CITY (Legal Newsline) - Former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson says he doesn't understand why a judge is taking so long to rule on the state's lawsuit against the poultry industry.

In 2005, Edmondson sued a total of 13 companies, most notably Tyson Foods.

Edmondson, who did not seek re-election in 2010, alleged that chicken waste from the companies' facilities polluted a million-acre area along the Illinois River.

The companies have argued that they aren't responsible for pollution in the watershed. Rather, a dozen wastewater treatment plants in the area are to blame, they say.

Testimony in the case wrapped up in early 2010, but U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell still has yet to rule.

"I did not anticipate that it would be this long waiting on a ruling," Edmondson told the Tulsa World.

"I don't know what would justify this kind of a delay and certainly have made no inquiry."

The former attorney general, who gave up the post for an unsuccessful run for governor, told the newspaper that he's eager for the judge to make a ruling so the case can proceed.

Gary Mickelson, a spokesman for Tyson Foods, said in a statement Monday that the company doesn't believe Frizzell has unreasonably delayed a ruling.

"He's had the arduous task of reviewing the exhibits and testimony from a trial that spanned five months. That process takes time and should be the product of careful reflection by the court, rather than meeting anyone's arbitrary expectation of timeliness," Mickelson said.

"In addition, since the trial ended, there have been other, related federal court decisions with implications for this case. The appeal by the Cherokee Nation was resolved late last year in favor of the poultry companies. The U.S. Supreme Court also issued a ruling in June 2011 that rejected a similar attempt by litigants to circumvent existing laws and regulations by asking courts to write new environmental regulations in lawsuits."

Defendants in the lawsuit are: Tyson Foods Inc., Tyson Poultry Inc., Tyson Chicken Inc., Cobb-Vantress Inc., Cal-Maine Foods Inc., Cargill Inc., Cargill Turkey Production LLC., George's Inc., George's Farms Inc., Peterson Farms, Simmons Foods Inc., Cal-Maine Farms Inc. and Willow Brook Foods Inc.

Edmondson had said regardless of how the case is settled, it will be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

The State is represented by outside contingency counsel: Tulsa, Okla.-based Riggs, Abney, Neal, Turpen, Orbison & Lewis; Tulsa-based Miller Keffer & Bullock; and Mt. Pleasant, S.C.-based Motley Rice.

The firms collectively stand to get 33.3 percent to 50 percent of the monetary damages awarded to the state.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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Organizations in this Story

U.S. Supreme Court
1 First St NE
Washington, DC 20543

Tyson Foods
2200 West Don Tyson Parkway
Springdale, AR 72762

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