Groups in Court to Challenge State Law Targeting Factory Farm Whistle-Blowers
BOISE – Tomorrow, national nonprofits Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho (ACLU of Idaho), and Center for Food Safety (CFS) will present arguments at a hearing regarding Idaho’s motion to dismiss the groups’ lawsuit, which challenges the constitutionality of Idaho’s controversial ag gag law.
When: Wednesday, June 25, 2:00pm Where: U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho, James A. McClure Federal Bldg. Courtroom 3 (Judge B. Lynn Winmill), 550 W. Fort Street, Boise, ID 83724
In April 2014 the groups filed a response to Idaho’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit (which was filed earlier this spring in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho). The plaintiffs’ response argued that the ag gag law violates the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and is preempted by federal law. The public interest coalition consists of organizations dedicated to civil liberties, animal protection, food safety, labor rights, and the environment, along with journalists. The groups filed the federal lawsuit to overturn Idaho’s ag gag statute, which was ratified by Idaho governor C.L. “Butch” Otter in February (Idaho Code sec. 18-7042). The statute criminalizes whistle-blowing investigations at factory farms, and specifically targets animal advocates who expose illegal practices.
Since the lawsuit was filed, groups including the AFL-CIO, the Government Accountability Project, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and a coalition of journalist organizations led by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, have submitted “friend of the court” legal briefs in support of the coalition’s lawsuit. On June 16, the court denied the Idaho Dairymen’s Association’s attempt to intervene in the lawsuit. The Association played a key role in drafting the ag gag law under challenge--illustrating a collusion between industry and government that is aimed at protecting factory farms from liability. The public interest coalition opposed the involvement of the Idaho Dairymen’s Association, which they perceived as a waste of court time and resources.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are ALDF, PETA, ACLU of Idaho, CFS, Farm Sanctuary, River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary, Western Watersheds Project, Sandpoint Vegetarians, Idaho Concerned Area Residents for the Environment (ICARE), Idaho Hispanic Caucus Institute for Research and Education (IHCIRE), 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.