For close to 30 years, my entire career has been devoted to environmental law. However, it took a dramatic turn in1995 when I met with 3 ranchers from North Missouri at the 200-plus attorney law firm in Kansas City where I worked. These 3 ranchers were concerned about an 80,000 hog factory that had been constructed next to their farms and homes. Although my practice had previously been devoted to defending corporations, I was intrigued and appalled by their story. Before long, I was representing over a hundred families whose peaceable use and enjoyment of their properties had been destroyed by Premium Standard Farms (PSF) invasion of North Missouri with over 2.5 million hogs. My firm filed claims for nuisance and brought citizen suits against PSF in both State and Federal Court.
These citizen suits were the first of their kind and took on national prominence to both agribusiness and general industry due to the legal precedents being established by the Courts. So successful, in fact, that the legal precedents were making some other clients of my firm so uncomfortable with my efforts that the Managing Partner launched a campaign to close down the cases. When it did not succeed, he finally screamed at me “(expletive) the clients.”
I immediately went home and told me wife what happened. I told her that was not who I was, to which she responded that is not who we are and advised that I quit right away and move to a smaller house if necessary.
In the year 2000, I faced a radical change in my career, from a corner office on the 20th floor to renting an office space with a small law firm, but I had the backing of my Family and my clients.
While this was going on I was contacted Bobby Kennedy, Jr. to assist him in his efforts to combat the explosion of animal factories all across the Nation. I came to meet and work with Bobby and Richard Middleton of the Middleton Firm based in Savannah, Georgia.
We joined the Kennedy team, which started me on the journey of devoting my law firm to representing the rich and poor, black and white, and educated and uneducated, folks whose lives have been decimated by the misfortune of having animal factories move into their areas. It has not been an easy fight, but it is the good fight, my law firm is growing rapidly and we still live in the same house.
FIRM PROFILE: Speer Law Firm, P.A., a Kansas City, Missouri based law firm was founded in 2000. It is a litigation law firm, primarily representing individuals, consumers and small businesses. The firm concentrates its practice in the areas of environmental catastrophe, and environmental torts, class actions, both nationwide and statewide.
SPEER LAW FIRM, P.A.
The Stilwell Building
104 W. 9th Street, Suite 305
Kansas City, MO 64105
Telephone: (816) 472-3560
Facsimile: (816) 421-2150
Toll Free: (866) 472-3569
Charles F. Speer, born Kansas City, Kansas 1953. Admitted: 1982, State Bar of Kansas; 1990, State Bar of Missouri; U.S District Court, Western District of Missouri; U.S. District Court, District of Kansas. Education: University of Kansas (B.G.S.) 1975; University of Kansas (M.B.A.) 1977; University of Kansas School of Law (J.D.) 1981. Member: Kansas, Missouri and American Bar Associations. Speaker: Mr. Speer is a frequent speaker on environmental and other topics, including speaking on Acquisitions and Dispositions of Businesses, National Business Institute (1987); Author: “Real Estate Boundary and Contract Law in Kansas,” National Business Institute (1990-91); “Tackling Environmental Issues Under the Laws of Kansas and Missouri,” The Cambridge Institute (1990-93); National Environmental Site Assessment Conference sponsored by the National Groundwater Association (1992); “Fundamentals of Missouri Environmental Law,” Government Institutes (1994); “OSHA’s New Asbestos Regulations are Here: Are You in Compliance?” Building Owners and Managers Association of Metropolitan Kansas City (October 1995); “Farm Management: A Whole-Farm Plan Case Study,” ABA Section of Natural Resources, Energy and Environmental Law (1996); “Animal Feeding Operations and Groundwater Issues, Impacts and Solutions Conference,” National Groundwater Association (1998).
The following is a sampling of the cases and results achieved by attorneys at Speer Law Firm, P.A. where they have served in a lead counsel capacity or otherwise played a significant role for plaintiffs.
CLEAN v. Premium Standard Farms, Western District of Missouri, No. 97-6073; Case filed on behalf of a citizens’ group from northern Missouri against one of the nation’s largest hog producers for violations of the Federal Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and CERCLA that resulted in a Consent Decree in 2002 designed to advance the development of “Next Generation Technologies” for the reduction of odor emitted from Defendants’ facilities; to improve the methods of handling of hog waste; to attempt to force Defendants to maintain compliance with the provisions of their permits; to implement measures to prevent unpermitted discharges of hog waste from the facilities; to reduce emissions of hydrogen sulfide and ammonia from Defendants’ waste lagoons and land application fields; and, to develop practices which would allow the reduction of acreage needed for the land application of hog waste.
M. Adwell v. Contigroup Companies, Inc., S. Adwell v. Contigroup Companies, Inc., Torrey v. Contigroup Companies, Inc. and Bounds v. Contigroup Companies, Inc., Jackson County Missouri Circuit Court, Case Nos. 02CV221529, 02CV221544, 04CV206334, and 04CV206730. Cases filed on behalf of individual residents in northern Missouri for nuisance generated by large-scale confined hog operations. Six of the Plaintiffs in the S. Adwell matter took their case to trial in September 2006. Each Plaintiff received a jury award of $750,000 for a total award of $4.5 million. The remaining cases are on-going.
Herrold v. Contigroup Companies, Inc., Jackson County Missouri Circuit Court, Case No. 04CV214350, This and related cases that have been transferred to the Circuit Courts of multiple counties in Northern Missouri are cases filed on behalf of approximately 200 residents of northern Missouri living within ten miles of concentrated animal feeding operations of defendants for nuisance generated by those operations. These cases are on-going.
Arnold, et al. v, Smithfield Foods, Inc., et al., DeKalb County Missouri Circuit Court, 08DK-CV00138, Case filed on behalf of three residents in Missouri for on-going nuisance. The plaintiffs were members of the group that previously received a jury award of $4.5 million.
Hanes, et al. v. Continental Grain, Inc., et al., City of St. Louis Missouri Circuit Court, 962-7621A, Case filed on behalf of over 100 residents in Missouri for nuisance generated by large-scale confined hog operations. Over fifty plaintiffs received a jury award of $100,000 a piece for a total of $5.2 million. This award was upheld by the Appellate Court for the State of Missouri.
Hanes, et al. v. Smithfield Foods, Inc., et al., DeKalb County Missouri Circuit Court, 08DK-CV00097, Case filed on behalf of a resident in Missouri for nuisance generated by large-scale confined hog operations. The plaintiff in this action was previously a prevailing plaintiff in a prior lawsuit against the predecessor entities of Smithfield Foods, Inc. The jury awarded $5.2 million in that action. Mr. Speer and his previous law firm represented the plaintiffs in that action.
McEowen v. North View Swine, et al., Cedar County, Missouri Circuit Court, 05CD-CV00106. Case filed on behalf of two residents in Missouri for nuisance generated by large-scale confined hog operations.
Piper v. Tyson Foods, Inc., et al., Saline County Missouri Circuit Court, 07SA-CV00202, Case filed on behalf of two residents in Missouri for nuisance generated by large-scale confined hog operations.
Mcguire, et al. v. Synergy, et al., Barton County Missouri Circuit Court, 08B4-CV00702, Case filed on behalf of twenty-seven residents in Missouri for nuisance generated by large-scale confined hog operations.
Brouse, et al. v. The Dairy Dozen –Thief River Falls, LLP, d/b/a Excel Dairy, et al., Marshall County Minnesota District Court, 45-CV-08-301, Case filed on behalf of twenty-three residents in Minnesota for nuisance generated by large-scale confined dairy operation.
Frost v. OK Foods, Sequoyah County Oklahoma District Court, CJ-01-986, Class-action case for private nuisance filed against OK Foods on behalf of local residents as a result of water pollution caused by discharge of waste from Defendant’s poultry slaughterhouse.
Sand v. Svoboda, District Court Of Keith County, Nebraska, Case No. CI 01-132. Defense of citizens against a SLAPP suit regarding comments submitted to the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality regarding a permit request for a large-scale confined hog operation with counterclaims against the plaintiffs. This case resulted in a jury verdict on behalf of our clients in excess of $1.3 million for a case on behalf of just 3 plaintiffs. In fact, the verdict resulted in the largest verdict ever in Keith County, Nebraska.
Ward, et al. v. Professional Swine Management, Inc., et al., Schuyler County, Illinois Circuit Court, 08 L 02. Case filed on behalf of fourteen residents in Illinois for nuisance generated by large-scale confined hog operations.