Hearing in Public Interest Coalition’s Constitutional Challenge to Idaho’s Controversial “Ag Gag” Law

Posted on April 27, 2015

Advocates Ask Court for Judgment in Suit Against Law That Silences Industry Whistle-Blowers

For immediate release:

Megan Backus, Animal Legal Defense Fund
David Perle, PETA
Leo Morales, ACLU of Idaho
Abigail Seiler, Center for Food Safety
Travis Bruner, Western Watersheds Project
Aidan O’Shea, Public Justice

baby-cow-cc-mark-hintsa-article-image-220pxBOISE — On Tuesday, April 28, the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho will hear oral arguments from plaintiffs for a broad-based public interest coalition of national nonprofits, including the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Idaho, and Center for Food Safety (CFS), who have requested summary judgment in their lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Idaho’s “ag gag” statute, Idaho Code sec. 18-7042. The coalition argues that the statute violates rights protected by the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit, filed in March 2014, could become the first constitutional challenge to an ag gag statute to reach a final judgment. In July, the court denied the state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

When: Tuesday, April 28, 3:30 p.m.
Where: 6th floor, Courtroom 3, James A. McClure Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse.
550 W. Fort St. Boise, ID 83724.

Idaho’s controversial ag gag statute makes it a crime to conduct an undercover investigation at an Idaho agricultural facility. Under this law, journalists, workers, activists, and members of the public can be convicted for videotaping animal cruelty or life-threatening safety violations. The coalition argues that this statute violates the First Amendment by suppressing speech that criticizes factory farms, and that the statute was motivated by unconstitutional animus against animal advocates in violation of the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In January, Erwin Chemerinsky, one of the nation’s foremost constitutional experts and founding dean and distinguished professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, submitted a friend of the court brief supporting the coalition’s challenge. Idaho’s ag gag statute “singles out those investigators and journalists critical of animal abuse. And the law’s effect on newsgathering, by design…directly criminalizes surreptitious newsgathering at agricultural facility,” Professor Chemerinsky writes. Going undercover, he notes, “is a practice with a long and venerable history in the finest traditions of the First Amendment.” His brief concludes that “the Court should also hold that the Ag Gag law is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause.” The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has also submitted a friend of the court brief supporting the coalition’s lawsuit, as did two constitutional law professors who are experts on the Equal Protection Clause.

The coalition consists of organizations dedicated to animal protection, civil liberties, food safety, labor rights, and the environment, along with journalists. Plaintiffs include ALDF, PETA, ACLU, CFS, Farm Sanctuary, River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary, Western Watersheds Project, Sandpoint Vegetarians, Idaho Concerned Area Residents for the Environment (ICARE), the political journal CounterPunch, Farm Forward, journalist Will Potter, Professor James McWilliams, investigator Monte Hickman, investigative journalist Blair Koch, and undercover investigations consultant Daniel Hauff.

The plaintiffs are represented by in-house counsel, Leslie Brueckner of Public Justice, Justin Marceau of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, and the law firm of Maria E. Andrade.

The coalition’s motion for summary judgment, as well as the amicus briefs, are available upon request.


13 thoughts on “Hearing in Public Interest Coalition’s Constitutional Challenge to Idaho’s Controversial “Ag Gag” Law

  1. Pam Baumann says:

    This law is not in the best interest of the public nor the animals. “Those that have nothing to hide, hide nothing.” We all know what this is really about. Time to end the shameful treatment of farm animals in the name of profit.

    1. Jenny says:

      Exactly. Animals are
      BEINGS. PERIOD. It is our obligation to protect them and criminalizing reporting or video taping from factory farms is absurd. Let’s turn this crocked world around.

  2. Debbie Singer says:

    You cannot allow the agricultural industry to hide their disgusting practices from the general public. If ever there is a need for transparency it is in the food industry. Do we really want to eat feces that is allowed into our meat? Do we really want to eat cattle that have cancer that is hidden prior to slaughter? We need to have cattle, pigs, chickens, turkeys that live on family farms who are fed top-quality food, because what goes into our food source goes into our bodies. We must have organic, loving, humane sources of all our food, non GMO products too for the animals as well as for us. You have to stop protecting these horrible people. I will not eat their food until you fix this ever-growing problem.

  3. Kim Harris says:

    ALL animals should be protected from ANY harmful treatment.

  4. Connie Rivera says:

    This ag-gag law needs to be stricken from any and all states where it is still in place and enforced. In its place, animal cruelty laws should be implemented and strictly enforced. It’s the right thing to do both morally and ethically. Any other outcome would be heathenistic; that is..uncultured and uncivilized.



  6. Dave Craddock says:

    Keep me posted on who eventually wins this Lawsuit. It should be Legal for a reporter Or or any animal rights group to video tape under cover or any other way it should be completely legal to do.



  8. Marsha Bomar says:

    This America after all & we do have 1st amendment rights even though some wish to take them away. Ag Gags are unconstitutional & CORPORATIONS ARE NOT PEOPLE.

  9. Susan Mann says:

    As I am reading this it is just before midnight, on the 27th. I wonder if this hearing will be open to the public? I would like to attend!

  10. Jenny says:

    It is our upmost responsibility as human beings to be allowed to witness with our eyes what other animal beings endure with their bodies. Factory farms and animal
    Slaughter should no longer exist, but in the meantime we have every right to show citizens of the world what cruelty looks like before ending up on their plates.

  11. MCG says:

    Even if you care absolutely nothing about animal welfare or food and worker safety, no citizen in the Land of the Free should put up with these filthy, corrupt ag-gag laws if they care about their country. The very idea of them is so anti-American it is astounding the brazenness with which these politicians and industry lobbyists feel justified in passing these with a straight face. If this case is lost, it will give permission to every agricultural state to usurp our freedoms and you can easily predict they, too, will institute ag-gag as soon as possible. It is unacceptable.

  12. Cameron says:

    Please STOP!! And I Support Cows

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