(Lou Santucci has a few thoughts on the ongoing winery lawsuit, which you can read more about here… -jb)
As a member of Protect the Peninsula Farmers LLC, I wanted to bring to your attention the recent discussion in the United States District Court, Western District of Michigan, Southern Division case regarding the winery lawsuit on the Old Mission Peninsula.
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Our group of interested grape growers, farmers and others have taken the position, as noted in an earlier editorial, that the township needs to work with, rather than against, the wineries to resolve this lawsuit.
To that end, it is interesting to note that in a recent hearing on May 17, 2021 before the Honorable Judge Ray Kent, United States Magistrate Judge, he advocated for the two parties to work together to find a solution to this lawsuit.
While the hearing focused on such legal niceties as admissions and interrogatories, the judge’s comments reflect a desire to see the Township and the wineries find a resolution to this case.
In fact, the judge sent the two parties into a separate room to try to agree to answer many of the questions of the wineries.
The Township’s unwillingness to answer the questions in the first place seems to be a way to drag this process out.
The Township’s refusal to respond to certain questions asked by the wineries caused the judge to note, “It seems to me, as a practical matter, the Township is going to have to answer these questions somehow.”
Throughout the hearing, the judge, in granting some requests for information and denying others, had the approach of ‘Let’s figure out a way to get more agreement than disagreement.’
In a final comment, the judge had this to say to John Gilliam, an attorney with Foley & Mansfield, the law firm which represents Peninsula Township in the lawsuit:
“It seems to me, Mr. Gilliam, this case is a perfect case to settle. Your clients can take the position that it’s been this way since the seventies, we’re not going to change. And I don’t know anything about the legal claims, ok? I’ve not looked at those, but listening to Mr. Infante’s arguments [Joseph Infante, attorney for the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula], it sounds like there’s some pretty significant legal issues here that could be resolved against your client. And if your client was willing to sit down and try to negotiate some kind of a resolution that it can live with and that the wineries can live with.”
As a group of interested farmers and others, we agree wholeheartedly with the Judge that the Township’s best interest is in resolving these issues sooner rather than later. This lawsuit, I am sure, was not undertaken lightly. The constitutional issues, among others, are serious, and a preliminary view is that they have merit. So what’s the holdup? Let’s get agreement going.
While legal tactics such as dragging out the procedural process may seem like the way to go from the Township lawyer’s perspective, it does not serve the interests of the citizens of Peninsula Township.