Case Moves Forward to Challenge State Law That Silences Factory Farm Whistle-Blowers

BOISE, Idaho – Today, a federal district court allowed an “ag gag” lawsuit to proceed against the state of Idaho in the constitutional challenge brought by a coalition of national nonprofits, including the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho (ACLU), and Center for Food Safety (CFS). The broad-based public interest coalition challenges Idaho’s controversial ag gag law, which criminalizes free-speech protected by the U.S. Constitution. Idaho governor C.L. “Butch” Otter signed the law, Idaho Code sec. 18-7042, into effect in February, 2014. Today’s ruling allows the lawsuit to move forward by refusing to grant the state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit outright. The lawsuit was filed in March in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho.

The coalition argues that Idaho’s ag gag law violates the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and is preempted by federal laws that protect whistle-blowers. Made up of organizations dedicated to civil liberties, animal protection, food safety, labor rights, and the environment, along with journalists, the coalition filed the federal lawsuit to overturn Idaho’s ag gag statute, which criminalizes whistle-blowing investigations at factory farms, and specifically targets animal advocates who expose illegal practices.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are ALDF, PETA, ACLU, 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. The plaintiffs are represented by in-house counsel, Public Justice, and the law firm of Maria E. Andrade. The case will now move forward to the discovery phase of legal proceedings.