Gag Order Denied in Balloon Lawsuit

A California judge refused to issue a gag order on an increasingly strange legal battle between a Coachella, California olive farm and local hot air balloon companies. The lawsuit, which began over two years ago in March, 2009, was initiated by JMC Farming Inc., which owns the olive farm.

JMC claimed that local hot air balloon companies, who operated tours in the skies over the farm, were violating their privacy and endangering their employees by flying over the company’s walled farm.

JMC has also threatened cropdusters and local and state government agencies who similarly violated the farm’s “airspace”, going as far as to sue the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Federal Aviation Administration for operating flights over their farm.

While the request for a gag order in a civil lawsuit is virtually unheard of, JMC is claiming that attorneys for the balloon companies are unfairly criticizing them in the press and are trying the case in the court of public opinion. They also claim that it will be difficult, if not impossible, to receive a fair trial after the public relations campaign against them.

Attorneys for the local balloon companies allege that JMC is a bully who dislikes the fact that their repeated lawsuits are now being challenged. Over the past two years, their legal threats have deflated the hot air balloon industry. Most of the thirteen balloon companies who have been sued have either gone out of business or acquiesced to the farm’s demands.

A trial date has been set for November 24.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer