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Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Courts - "Ag-gag" in Idaho law found to violate First Amendment and Equal Protection

ShadowProof.com's Kevin Gosztola reported yesterday in a story headed "Federal judge strikes down Idaho 'ag-gag' law, defends undercover investigations of food industry."

The opinion from the Idaho U.S. district court, is Animal Legal Defense Fund v. C.L. Butch Otter, in his official capacity as Gov. of Idaho. Here is a copy, via the plaintiffs' website. A few quotes from the long story:

The law was an industry response to an undercover operation in Bettencourt Dairy, which led to the recording animals abused and sexually molested. Dairy employees were charged and convicted of animal abuse.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho and the Center for Food Safety, along with CounterPunch and journalist Will Potter of GreenistheNewRed.com, filed a lawsuit against the state about a month later.

Judge B. Lynn Winmill, of the United States District Court for the District of Idaho, found the law violated the First Amendment and rights to equal protection.

“The state may not agree with the message certain groups seek to convey about Idaho’s agricultural production facilities, such as releasing secretly recorded videos of animal abuse to the Internet and calling for boycotts,” Winmill wrote. But, “it cannot deny such groups equal protection of the laws in their exercise of their right to free speech.”

The judge contended ALDF had “come forward with abundant evidence that the law was enacted with the discriminatory purpose of silencing animal rights activists who conduct undercover investigations in the agricultural industry.” * * *

[Plaintiff] Will Potter described the ruling as a “strongly-worded defense of the First Amendment and investigators, and a harsh attack on attempts by corporations to carve out special protections under their law, solely to protect their profits.”

“The ruling sets the stage for ag-gag laws to be challenged in other states on similar grounds. The ALDF, PETA and others are currently fighting ag-gag in Utah,” Potter added. “The recent passage of North Carolina’s sweeping ag-gag laws, which is so broad it includes those who expose abuse at daycares and nursing homes, clearly cannot withstand scrutiny, either.”

ILB: Two things:

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 4, 2015 01:31 PM
Posted to Courts in general | Environment | Indiana Government | Indiana Law