Federal shutdown prompts judge to freeze hog nuisance trials

The partial government shutdown is prompting the postponement of a trial by a federal judge managing lawsuits accusing the world's largest pork company of creating nuisances for rural North Carolina neighbors.

U.S. District Judge Earl Britt ordered Thursday that a jury trial scheduled to start Tuesday must be postponed because jury pay couldn't be guaranteed beyond next week. Britt said the fifth of more than two dozen lawsuits by more than 500 neighbors of intensive animal operations will be rescheduled once funding is appropriated.

Jurors in four previous cases decided Smithfield Foods should pay nearly $550 million in penalties.

Last week, the shutdown forced the chief judge of Manhattan federal courts to suspend work on civil cases involving U.S. government lawyers. A similar order affects federal courts in northern Ohio.