Posner Dresses Down Prosecutor in Salad Dressing Dispute

Judge Richard Posner has blasted a federal prosecutor in an appellate opinion tossing the conviction of a businessman who relabeled and sold bottles of salad dressing.

Posner, a judge on the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, identified the prosecutor by name and called for sanctions, the Chicago Tribune reports.

“The government’s appellate lawyer told us that the prosecutor’s superior would give her a talking-to,” Posner wrote. “We are not impressed by the suggestion.”

Posner said Assistant U.S. Attorney Juliet Sorensen made misleading statements about the nature of the “best when purchased by” dates on bottles of Henri’s salad dressing. The businessman she prosecuted had bought 1.6 million bottles of the dressing, attached new labels extending the “best when purchased by” dates by a year, and sold them to discount stores, according to Above the Law.

Posner said Sorensen repeatedly referred to the “best when purchased by” date as the date the dressing would expire. That’s not true, the judge wrote.

“The term ‘expiration date’ … on a food product … has a generally understood meaning: It is the date after which you shouldn’t eat the product,” Posner said. “Salad dressing, however, or at least the type of salad dressing represented by Henri’s, is what is called ‘shelf stable’; it has no expiration date.”

Posner also targeted Sorensen for statements she made in closing arguments. “Ladies and gentlemen, don’t let the defendant and his high-paid lawyer buy his way out of this,” Sorensen told jurors. After an objection, Sorensen said, “You have to earn justice. You can’t buy it.”