The outcome of the Pom Wonderful versus Coca-Cola case may mean big advertising changes
The ruling in Pom Wonderful versus Coke may have lasting implications for the future of food and beverage advertising.
On Monday, April 21st, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case that could heavily impact the way that food and beverage companies are permitted to label their products.
The case, Pom Wonderful versus Coca-Cola, alleges that the soda giant misled consumers with its labeling of the “Pomegranate and Blueberry Flavored Blend of 5 Juices, which contained only .3 percent pomegranate juice and .2 percent blueberry juice. The remaining 99 percent of the “blend” consisted of apple juice and grape juice.”
The lawsuit, which dates back to 2008, also names Ocean Spray, Welches, and Tropicana for similarly misleading statements, according to AdWeek. However, only Coca-Cola won against Pom in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
"Depending on how the Supreme Court rules, the ramifications could be broad,” Linda Goldstein, a partner at Manatt, Phelps, & Phillips, told AdWeek. “This is a huge case for the food and beverage industry. No one has asserted that Coca-Cola violated FDA rules and law. The issue is whether the FDA regulations are the floor or the ceiling. Pom says it's the floor and that the label can still be misleading."
If Pom is successful on Monday, methods of labeling for food and beverage companies might be subject to an intense amount of scrutiny, and may cause “uncertainty and confusion and open the flood gates even further to class action litigation," said Goldstein.
The Supreme Court is expected to hand down its ruling this summer.
Click here for our slideshow of the Six Most Bizzare Beverage Lawsuits.
Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.
Supreme Court Gives Big Oil a Win in Climate Fight With Cities
But in the case, filed by the city of Baltimore, the high court gave the fossil fuel industry far less than it had asked for.
The Supreme Court handed a victory to fossil fuel companies on Monday in a major climate change case, but gave the industry far less than it had asked for.
The decision in the case did not deal with the merits of the lawsuit, which Baltimore filed to try to compel fossil fuel companies to help pay the costs of dealing with climate change. Instead, the justices focused on narrow issues concerning the rules for appealing lower-court decisions that send cases to state courts.
By a 7-1 decision, the Supreme Court on Monday sent the case back to the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to reconsider the industry’s demand that it review a lower-court decision to have the case proceed in state courts.
The issue of whether to hear these cases in federal or state court has been a major point of contention in about 20 similar cases filed around the country.
The fossil fuel companies prefer the federal courts. That’s partly because state and federal laws typically treat cases like these, which depend on the common law of nuisance, differently. A unanimous 2011 Supreme Court decision said that, under federal law, the Clean Air Act displaced common law of nuisance, giving jurisdiction to the Environmental Protection Agency.
But plaintiffs like Baltimore have argued that state laws should take precedence. They may also see the local courts as a friendlier venue.
While the companies won the day, “it was a bullet dodged” for Baltimore, said Patrick Parenteau, an expert on environmental law at Vermont Law School. “The oil companies were looking for a kill shot,” he said, in which the justices would vote to throw the Baltimore case and the rest out, or at least use language in the decision that would send a message to the lower court that the cases would get a skeptical hearing at the Supreme Court level.
Instead, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch’s opinion focused on the narrow procedural issues.
Baltimore filed its suit in July 2018, arguing that the companies’ “production, promotion and marketing of fossil fuel products, simultaneous concealment of the known hazards of those products, and their championing of anti-science campaigns” harmed the city. The lawsuit noted that Baltimore “is particularly vulnerable to sea level rise and flooding,” and that it has spent “significant funds” to plan for and to deal with global warming. The case cited the cost of health-related issues associated with climate change, including increased rates of hospitalization in summer.
Appeals courts have traditionally been unable to review a decision sending cases to state court except in vary narrow exceptions. Courts are divided over how broad the review of such a decision can be.
In the case, BP P.L.C. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, No. 19-1189, the fossil fuel companies requested an expansive review of issues in the decision to send the case to state court the city requested that the rules of appeal be interpreted narrowly, in a way that would have allowed the case to proceed in state courts. The court majority ruled that the appeals court should not be overly limited in its review of issues.
The lone dissenter, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, said that the fossil fuel companies had used what amounts to procedural sleight of hand to avoid the normal limits on review for a decision on appeal. The new decision, she warned, would open the federal appeals process to gamesmanship, allowing parties to make “near-frivolous arguments” in order to open a back door for appeal.
Justice Gorsuch dismissed such concerns, saying that the legislative branch could address any problems that might arise. “Congress is of course free to revise its work anytime,” he wrote. “But that forum, not this one, is the proper place for such lawmaking.”
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. did not participate in the decision he owns stock in companies involved in the case. Supporters of the plaintiffs in this and similar cases have suggested that Justice Amy Coney Barrett should recuse herself because of family ties to the oil industry. Her vote with the 7-1 majority did not affect the outcome of Monday’s decision.
Sara Gross, chief of Baltimore’s affirmative litigation division in the city department of law, said in a statement, “While this isn’t the outcome we wanted, we are fully confident that the City will prevail again when the remaining issues are considered by the Court of Appeals.”
Phil Goldberg, special counsel for the Manufacturers’ Accountability Project, a pro-industry group, said in a statement that the decision “should stop this effort by Baltimore and other communities to circumvent federal law and undermine national efforts to address climate change through comprehensive public policies, innovation and collaboration.” Local courts, he said, are not the place to resolve “this important global challenge.”
In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor brought her argument back to the city and its problems. The Court, she said, is opening new avenues for appeal and delay. “Meanwhile,” she wrote, “Baltimore, which has already waited nearly three years to begin litigation on the merits, is consigned to waiting once more.”
Explainer: The Supreme Court takes major abortion case, but what does it mean?
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to decide a major abortion case that could dramatically alter decades of rulings on abortion rights and eventually lead to dramatic restrictions on abortion access.
It’s been nearly 50 years since the court announced in its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that women have a constitutional right to abortion.
Here are some questions and answers about the case:
COULD THIS BE THE CASE THAT OVERTURNS ROE V. WADE?
The case is an appeal from Mississippi in which the state is asking to be allowed to ban most abortions at the 15th week of pregnancy. The state is not asking the court to overrule Roe v. Wade, or later cases that reaffirmed it.
But many supporters of abortion rights are alarmed and many opponents of abortion are elated that the justices could undermine their earlier abortion rulings. If the court upholds Mississippi’s law, it would be its first ratification of an abortion ban before the point of viability, when a fetus can survive outside the womb. Such a ruling could lay the groundwork for allowing even more restrictions on abortion. That includes state bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks.
WHAT HAPPENS IF MISSISSIPPI WINS?
If Mississippi wins, it gets to enforce its 15-week ban, which lower courts have so far prohibited. In addition, other conservative states would certainly look to copy Mississippi’s law. A decision that states can limit previability abortions would also embolden states to pass more restrictions, which some states have already done and which are already wrapped up in legal challenges. Challenges to those limits would continue.
That said, the immediate practical impact of a win for Mississippi could be muted. That’s because more than 90% of abortions take place in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
THE COURT IS CONSERVATIVE. IS THERE A LIKELY OUTCOME?
Mississippi would seem to have the upper hand, both because the justices agreed to hear the case in the first place and because of the makeup of the court. After the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September and her replacement by conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, conservatives hold six of the court’s nine seats.
Barrett, one of former President Donald Trump’s three appointees to the court, is the most open opponent of abortion rights to join the court in decades. Trump’s other two appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, voted in dissent last year to allow Louisiana to enforce restrictions on doctors that could have closed two of the state’s three abortion clinics.
Justice Samuel Alito would also be expected to be a vote for Mississippi, while Justice Clarence Thomas is on record in support of overturning Roe v. Wade.
WHEN WILL THE PUBLIC KNOW WHAT THE COURT DOES?
The court has finished its calendar of scheduled oral arguments for now and is issuing decisions before taking a break for the summer. The court will resume hearing arguments in October, and this case will probably be argued in the fall. A decision would likely come in the spring of 2022 during the campaign for congressional midterm elections.
WHERE ARE AMERICANS ON THE ISSUE OF ABORTION?
An April poll from the Pew Research Center found that 59% of Americans think abortion should be legal in most or all cases, while 39% think it should be illegal in most or all cases. Eighty percent of Democrats said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared with just 35% of Republicans.
Big win for Coke at Supreme Court could really upset apple cart, says attorneyPeter Arhangelsky: 'A broad decision against POM could upset the apple cart and ripple into the consumer class action realm'
To recap: POM has filed a suit under the Lanham Act alleging that Coke is “willfully misleading consumers" by marketing a Minute Maid juice comprised almost entirely of apple & grape juice as ‘Pomegranate Blueberry' Coke, meanwhile, says it complies with federal labeling laws and POM should not be able to impose its own standards (click HERE for full details).
FoodNavigator-USA caught up with Peter A. Arhangelsky, a principal in the Arizona office of law firm Emord & Associates, to find out what is at stake.
If the Supreme Court sides with Coke …
Technically, the Supreme Court - which will hear oral arguments on this case Monday - has a fairly narrow remit, says Arhangelsky.
Specifically, it must decide whether a juice manufacturer with a product name and label compliant with federal labeling laws can still be slapped with a false advertising suit by a rival under the Lanham Act (a law for commercial litigants, not consumers).
Consumers are already allowed to sue companies for false advertising under state consumer protection laws such as California’s Unfair Competition Law, so technically, the Supreme Court’s decision in POM v Coke shouldn’t impact consumer lawsuits, says Arhangelsky.
Sweet music for dietary supplement and food manufacturers?
However, “a broad decision against POM could ripple into the consumer class action realm”, he predicts.
Peter Arhangelsky: Regardless of the outcome in the POM v Coke case at the Supreme Court, a pure false advertising claim will remain available to consumers
“A decision against POM might leave FDA the exclusive arbiter of all labeling concerns, and that would trickle down to the state-level consumer actions.
'I was astonished by this line of questioning.' More reaction to POM v Coke at the Supreme CourtAttorney: Kathleen Sullivan [for Coke] did a terrific job but she faced a court that was far more focused on its visceral reaction to the product name than her arguments
Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA after Coke’s grilling at the Court on Monday, Dale Giali, partner in the LA office of law firm Mayer Brown, said: “The chief justice of the United States [Justice Roberts] seemed to indicate that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only has jurisdiction over health and safety, and not consumer protection.
“But the FDA’s authority to regulate labels for consumer protection is well-recognized by the food industry and the lawyers that counsel the industry it is right there in the Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act (FDCA)! No one, as far as I know, has ever questioned the jurisdiction or authority of the FDA to regulate labeling for the specific purpose of consumer protection. So I was astonished by this line of questioning.”
Chief Justice Roberts seemed to be confused as to the FDA’s remit
Ivan Wasserman, partner at Manatt Phelps & Phillips in Washington DC, also observed that Chief Justice Roberts seemed to be “misinformed” as to the FDA’s legal remit, and was surprised to hear him ask whether the FDA addresses issues of consumer and commercial confusion when it issues labeling regulations.
And when he was told that the FDA did indeed look beyond “health and wellbeing concerns”, Chief Justice Roberts then asked: “What does the FDA know about that? I mean, I would understand if it was the FTC or something like that, but I don't know that the FDA has any expertise in terms of consumer confusion apart from any health issues.”
The music industry, meanwhile, is recovering from a long slump. It sold 814 million CD's, cassettes and units of music in other formats last year in the United States, up 2 percent, its first increase in five years, the recording industry association said. It also sold 140 million digital tracks in the United States, the association said. But the industry says it thinks it would have seen a bigger sales rebound had it not been for online piracy.
The recording industry is exploring ways to release new CD's with technology that will restrict copying. Sony BMG is expected to use such technology on at least half their new recordings in the United States by the end of this year.
Some independent record labels are taking a less confrontational stance and trying to tap into the popularity of file-sharing networks by selling their music on them, often alongside pirated versions of the same songs.
Kazaa has been pursuing that idea for several years through an affiliated company called Altnet, which allows labels to put authorized files of songs on its networks. These files are either offered for sale, or they are free for promotional purposes, often with technology that restricts their use to a certain time period.
Altnet is still small, with revenues of less than $1 million in 2004, but it has been used by some independent labels, including V2, the label of Richard Branson's Virgin Group.
V2 sells songs by its acts like the Stereophonics and Moby through Altnet for 99 cents each because file-sharing networks have eclipsed MTV and radio as the place fans discover new music, said Jeff Wooding, its director of marketing and new media. He said that the move would not stop piracy, but could be used to promote the bands' merchandise and concert tickets as well as earn something for download sales.
"No one's kidding themselves that we expect to convert a whole lot of users," Mr. Wooding said, but he added that he thought many file sharers would buy merchandise and concert tickets from bands they liked and that some might eventually purchase a CD.
Altnet is also experimenting with an advertising-driven format developed by Intent MediaWorks, which buys rights to songs from artists for distribution in a special file format. The first time a user tries to play the song, the file opens a Web page with an advertisement on it. Intent MediaWorks is also working on ways to insert audio commercials into the songs.
"The idea for the advertising model is to transform file-sharing networks into radio," said Lee Jaffe, president of Altnet, which is distributing Intent MediaWorks' files. "But unlike radio where artists and labels don't get paid, they will be able to share the revenue."
Major recording labels, however, have been very resistant to doing deals with Altnet and similar systems, fearing that such alliances might undercut their lawsuits against the file-sharing networks. They have demanded that the networks remove all the unauthorized songs before they do any business with them.
Shawn Fanning's Snocap system is an attempt to help file-sharing networks do just that. It creates a way for copyright owners to register the songs they own. The networks, using a technology called acoustic fingerprinting, can identify whether a file being downloaded is in a copyrighted registry. The copyright owner can choose to block the download, offer the song for sale or offer a limited-use version of the song as substitute.
Snocap, in addition to endorsements from Universal Music and Sony BMG, will also be used by Mashboxx, a new file-sharing service started by Wayne Russo, the former president of Grokster, which is based in Nevis, West Indies.
But it still faces some significant challenges. First, the company has not released a working version of the software, and many file-sharing advocates dismiss the concept as thoroughly unworkable.
"Snocap will fail miserably in the market," said Michael Weiss, chief executive of StreamCast networks, which makes Morpheus.
"If I was looking for a download, and I got some sort of truncated file with a message that says buy this or do that, I don't see why anybody would embrace that," he said. "If you wanted to buy music, you could go to the online stores that are doing a great job like iTunes."
Mr. Russo said that his approach did not need to win over all file-sharing users to make some money for him and the record companies.
"There are 2.5 billion music files traded every month," he said. "If we can capture 1 percent of that, 25 million files, and we convert 5 to 10 percent of those to paid, I am very happy."
Aside from these attempts to reach détente with the free file-sharing networks, the recording industry knows it also needs new products and new avenues for distribution.
It has, for instance, placed a hefty bet on DualDiscs, a new two-sided CD format that features music on one side and video on the other. "We are committed to giving consumers what they want, legitimately and in a way that fairly compensates those that work so hard to create content," said Zach Horowitz, president of Universal Music Group, which releases music by acts like U2 and 3 Doors Down.
"If we win the case," Mr. Horowitz said, "all the efforts we are making to launch compelling legitimate alternatives will gain traction. There will be no turning back the clock in terms of the countless ways we are making our music available to take advantage of the new technologies."
Correction: March 29, 2005, Tuesday An article in Business Day yesterday about a Supreme Court hearing on music file-sharing services misspelled the surname of the founder of Mashboxx, one of several companies trying to prevent illegal downloads. He is Wayne Rosso, not Russo.
Supreme Court won’t hear Texas challenge to California LGBTQ law
The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an unusual complaint from the state of Texas alleging that California had unconstitutionally discriminated against it by refusing to pay the travel costs of California state employees who go there.
Texas Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton had sued directly in the high court alleging that California imposed “economic sanctions” on Texas and 10 other conservative states that passed laws permitting discrimination based on sexual orientation. The other states were Alabama, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee.
Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissented from the decision to not hear the case.
Paxton had argued that California’s actions violated the Constitution’s protection for interstate commerce.
California state lawyers said Texas misstated what was at issue.
In 2016, the California legislature passed AB 1887, which prohibits state agencies from approving “state-funded or state-sponsored travel” to any state that enacted a law that discriminates against LGBTQ people.
The measure “is not a trade embargo or travel ban. It does not bar any commerce or prohibit any travel into or out of California,” California state attorneys said. “It instead limits what out-of-state travel California will pay for.”
In December, the justices rejected another novel legal challenge from Paxton, who had urged the court to toss out the electoral votes of four states: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia — which were crucial to President Biden’s victory over Donald Trump.
Paxton was also behind the broad challenge to the Affordable Care Act that reached the high court. He claimed the entire law should be voided because Congress in 2017 reduced the tax penalty to zero for those who did not have health insurance.
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David G. Savage has covered the Supreme Court and legal issues for the Los Angeles Times in the Washington bureau since 1986.
In honor of our new food exhibit at the National Constitution Center, we look at 10 famous Supreme Court decisions directly or tangentially related to tomatoes, eggs, milk, apple cider vinegar and raisins.
If you are in the Philadelphia area, our &ldquoWhat&rsquos Cooking, Uncle Sam?&rdquo exhibit showcases examples of how government regulations, research, and economics have shaped what we eat and why.
And with all things related to society, at some point a disagreement over the composition, distribution and regulation of food, vegetables and drinks will make its way to the Supreme Court.
Here are 10 famous examples of cases in which the nine Justices tackled these questions.
The high court faced an early case of food jurisprudence by answering a crucial question: Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable? A unanimous Court, led by Justice Horace Gray, decided that for customs purposes, tomatoes should be considered as vegetables, even though botanists said they were fruits.
&ldquoBotanically speaking, tomatoes are the fruit of a vine, just as are cucumbers, squashes, beans, and peas. But in the common language of the people, whether sellers or consumers of provisions, all these are vegetables which are grown in kitchen gardens, and &hellip usually served at dinner in, with, or after the soup, fish, or meats which constitute the principal part of the repast, and not, like fruits generally, as dessert,&rdquo wrote Gray.
The Supreme Court upheld the Pure Food and Drug Act as a proper use of Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce. The eggs in question were canned but adulterated and had crossed state lines.
The Supreme Court takes on food additives. It says bleached flour with nitrite residues can&rsquot be banned from foods unless the government can show the additive causes harm. But it confirms that food containing deleterious ingredients are illegal when they cause injury.
The Court says that a product called "Apple Cider Vinegar Made from Selected Apples" was misleading because it was made from dried apples, and the vinegar was misbranded under the Food and Drugs Act.
&ldquoThe words 'made from selected apples' indicate that the apples used were chosen with special regard to their fitness for the purpose of making apple cider vinegar. They give no hint that the vinegar was made from dried apples, or that the larger part of the moisture content of the apples was eliminated and water substituted therefor. As used on the label, they aid the misrepresentation made by the words 'apple cider vinegar,&rdquo&rdquo says Justice Pierce Butler.
On its face, Schechter Poultry was about the alleged sale of sick chickens and the ability of the executive branch to stop it. In reality the case was about the Live Poultry Code, which was written by the FDR administration. The code fixed the maximum number of hours a poultry employee could work, added minimum wages for the workers, and controlled methods of "unfair competition."
The Supreme Court, with Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes writing the majority decision, said the Code wasn&rsquot a valid exercise of Commerce Clause power reserved to Congress. The decision also nullified an important New Deal program, the National Industrial Recovery Act.
The case was about a law passed by Congress called the Filled Milk Act, which barred interstate shipments of skimmed milk compounded with fats or oils other than milk fat. But it is best known today for its &ldquoFootnote Four,&rdquo a footnote added by Justice Harlan Stone, that said the Court should review laws more closely if they discriminated against &ldquodiscrete and insular minorities&rdquo that didn&rsquot have the political power to defend themselves.
The Wickard case was about government-imposed wheat production quotas during the end of the Great Depression that were designed to control wheat prices. Filburn, a farmer, grew more wheat than allowed, and was fined. He claimed he was keeping the excess wheat for his own use, and not selling it as a product. A unanimous court said that Congress had powers to enable Filburn to be fined, under the Interstate Commerce Clause, because even the use of home-grown products could affect market conditions.
In this religious liberties case, Chief Justice Earl Warren, writing the majority decision, said that Sunday closing laws must apply to Orthodox Jewish who were shopkeepers. The shopkeepers complained on various First Amendment and equal protection grounds. Warren and five other Justices ruled that the laws were &ldquonot regarded as religious ordinances.&rdquo
This recent dispute is over pomegranate juices between Coca-Cola&rsquos Minute Maid division and POM Wonderful, which makes various pomegranate products. POM Wonderful claimed a Lanham Act trademark violation was incurred by Coca-Cola, based on the premise that small amount of pomegranate juice in the competitive Minute Maid product was misleading and presented unfair competition. Coca-Cola cited the FDA&rsquos power to control food and beverage labeling as a controlling factor.
A unanimous Court sided with POM Wonderful, deciding that it could pursue legal action.
The Horne case was about the government&rsquos ability to regulate raisin crops and the Fifth Amendment. At the heart of the argument was the Raisin Marketing Order, which dates back to the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937. The order required growers to turn over a percentage of handled raisins to the federal government. The government removed surplus raisins from the market to regulate raisin prices, and often resold part of its confiscated raisin horde to the market, giving some proceeds back to the growers. Marvin Horne, the farmer in the case, was fined $695,000 for noncompliance with the order.
A split Court held that the move to confiscate the excess raisins was a taking under the Fifth Amendment and Horne was due just compensation.
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The Supremes Seem Genuinely Puzzled About How to Proceed on This Campus Speech Case
I spent the morning listening to oral arguments before the Supreme Court in the matter of "Fuck Cheer." Actually, the case officially was titled Mahanoy Area School Dist. v. B. L., and it was an important free-speech case of particular interest to anyone with children in the public schools. Let Amy Howe of SCOTUSBlog run down the facts of the case for you.
At issue was whether or not a school system can regulate the speech of students when they&rsquore off campus. The case that obtains was Tinker v. Des Moines, the 1969 Supreme Court decision in which the Court famously declared that students do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate." However, the Court also granted the schools the right to regulate speech if that speech disrupted the educational process. Here, the school district argued that the nature of modern communication technology has to extend that exception beyond &ldquothe schoolhouse gate.&rdquo Lisa Blatt, the attorney for the school district, argued that the Internet had rendered &ldquotime and geography meaningless."
The justices seemed genuinely banjaxed on the whole question. On the surface, a school&rsquos right to regulate off-campus speech sounds preposterously East German. A measure of how banjaxed the justices were is the fact that both Justice Samuel Alito and Justice Elena Kagan wondered whether, if the school had the right to regulate a student&rsquos speech at home, where exactly could it not regulate it?
At the heart of all the questioning was the ongoing wrestling match between constitutional guarantees and the damn Internet. "The Internet," said Blatt, "is ubiquitous." Justice Sonia Sotomayor expressed concern that to rule against the school would open the floodgates to cyberbullying, a legitimate concern. And, after a year of remote learning, it is less easy to argue that a student can&rsquot disrupt the educational process from a distance. My guess? The justices will find some mushy middle ground here that will enable them to toss this case back down the food chain for a lower court to take another look at it. But, before leaving the issue, I have to take note of a response that Blatt gave to a question from Justice Clarence Thomas, who wanted to know what the policy should be towards divisive issues that had nothing to do with cheer squads and softball.
Ten or eleven generations of Black citizens in Charleston, South Carolina could enlighten her, I think.
SD Supreme Court rules against landowner trying to control use of road in Roberts County
PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Supreme Court has ruled against landowners who sought to control the use of a road in Roberts County.
The case looked at the county government’s definition of the word ‘private’ on a plat map for subdivided properties along Big Stone Lake.
In an opinion publicly released Thursday, the justices agreed with Circuit Judge Jon Flemmer that the road is public but without county or township maintenance.
“The (Roberts County) Commission would not have approved the Bay Ridge plat if its lots had no access road,” Justice Scott Myren wrote.
A key witness in circuit court was Arden Moen, who was Roberts County’s director of equalization from 1991 to 2007.
“He (Moen) stated that a big concern for the Roberts County Planning and Zoning Committee was to ensure that the county or township would not be responsible for maintaining roads located in Big Stone Lake’s developments,” Justice Myren wrote.
“He commented that the committee labeled roads ‘private’ to put the public and subdivision lot purchasers on notice that adjacent lot owners, not the county or township, were responsible for the road’s maintenance,” the justice continued. “He asserted that the roads marked private are ‘public roads that are privately maintained, or . . . public roads that are not maintained by the county or township.’
“According to him, the committee did not intend the use of the word “private” to prohibit the public from using the road. He noted that all platted lots must have access to a road for the committee to approve the subdivision,” Myren wrote.
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