U.S. District Court Judge William Nickerson has acknowledged that settlement talks in the case, Waterkeepers Alliance v.  Alan and Kristin Hudson have failed, and he will be discussing a trial date with counsel on April 18. The original trial date of April 16 was cancelled.

The Waterkeepers Alliance has filed three motions asking for summary judgement in the case, which Judge Nickerson denied in an order filed in March.  He indicated in court documents that the trial must proceed as there are questions of law that should be addressed through that process.

The civil case, which was filed in March 2010, named as defendants both the Hudsons and Perdue Farms, for whom the farm is a contract grower, alleged that the farm was violating the Clean Water Act.  The violation was based on a pile of material on the property that was erroneously assumed to be chicken waste.

Judge Nickerson said in his order that there are “elements of this litigation that the Court finds disturbing,” indicating that it appears that the Waterkeepers Alliance was searching for a poultry grower to sue, and the Hudson’s farm happened to be the one that they picked.  In addition, the Waterkeepers Alliance has continued with the litigation even though the initial evidence on the Hudson Farm was proved to be inaccurate, the judge said.

The “plaintiff’s case has now gone from a large pile of uncovered chicken manure to small amounts of airborne litter from the exhaust fans, trace amounts brought out on shoes and tires, and a dustpan of litter left on the heavy use pads,” Nickerson wrote.  He also pointed out that should the court find no violation, the statute permits attorney’s fees to be awarded to “any prevailing or substantially prevailing party.”

SaveFarmFamilies.org is raising funds for Alan and Kristin Hudson, who are the target of the lawsuit, and raising awareness about tactics being used and the implications those tactics could have for family farms across the country.