How Juries Can Nullify Bad Laws

Behind every bad law is a trail of money that leads to lobbyists that represent powerful corporations. Corporations use the legal system literally to outlaw their competition through the enforcement of regulations, taxes, and fees that smaller businesses can’t afford. In the case of raw milk laws, entities like dairy associations and big agricultural corporations are intent on outlawing their competition not just through regulations but by arguing that it’s “for the people’s own good.” Isn’t that nice of them to look out for us and our safety? Business Week quotes the government’s own statistics:

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said raw milk products were responsible for at least 93 disease outbreaks from 1998-2009, causing 1,837 illnesses, 195 hospitalizations, and two deaths. The CDC says foodborne illnesses often go unreported, so the actual number of illnesses from raw milk is probably higher.

Yeah, I’m sure that the actual number is “probably higher.” Government bureaucrats hope that their numbers are higher so that their argument is not as weak. The “2 deaths” stat originated not from raw milk drinkers, but from consumers of a Mexican cheese called “queso fresco.” So, they have to lie about their own statistics to scare people because they don’t have any real death cases to report. And then they claim that the numbers are “probably higher.”

What they conveniently don’t report on is the relatively high number of illnesses and deaths associated with pasteurized milk. There was one incident in the mid-1980’s involving a salmonella outbreak not from raw milk, but from pasteurized milk. The outbreak resulted in 200,000 illnesses and 18 deaths. I’m sure that government bureaucrats said that these people must have just had a “milk allergy.” And that was just one instance.

So, it’s obvious our nanny state doesn’t care about our health and wellbeing. Once again, they care for two things:  money and power. It’s no surprise that we have a lot of really stupid laws because of this. But there is still a semblance of justice in our justice system that government bureaucrats, lobbyists, district attorneys and others don’t want us to know about. It provides a check and balance on the corrupt system that literally leaves all the lawyers, politicians and judges powerless. It’s called jury nullification. Juries are the most powerful institution in America because they can render bad laws null and void. And as more and more jurors realize this, more and more innocent people will go free who otherwise would have ended up in jail because of a stupid law.

This just happened recently in Minnesota involving an organic farmer named Alvin Schlangen who managed a 130-member co-op. He was actually a middle man of sorts. He would purchase raw milk from an Amish farm and distribute it to the members. In Minnesota, this is a violation of law. You’re not allowed to distribute raw milk, and the only instance where one can buy raw milk is directly from the dairy farmer on his farm when the milk is furnished.

For the past 2 years, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture had harassed Schlangen and raided his farm, his vans and his warehouse. According to Business Week, he was eventually charged with “distributing unpasteurized milk, operating without a food handler’s license and handling adulterated food.” If convicted, Schlangen was looking at doing a year in jail and paying a large fine.

The Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA) is an association that educates potential jurors on the concept of jury nullification. Thanks to FIJA, the 6-member jury in this case nullified these laws and declared Schlangen not guilty on all 3 counts. This is a small but significant victory for those who value freedom.

We can rant about bad laws all day long, and we should continue to do so to put pressure on politicians. But if you’re ever in a jury situation, remember jury nullification, and maybe we can outlaw the bad laws.