U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, 2016
Most recent action
On June 24, 2016, Media Coalition Foundation joined an amicus brief urging the Ninth Circuit to uphold the lower court’s ruling, striking down Idaho’s “ag-gag” law. The brief argues that the law is a content- and viewpoint-based restriction on protected speech and criminalizes important undercover investigative reporting.
Previous case name: Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Otter
Idaho enacts S.B. 1337
On February 28, 2014, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter signed Senate Bill 1337  into law. It makes it a crime to enter an agricultural facility and make audio or video recordings of the facility’s operations without the consent of the owner. The bill went into effect immediately.
Lawsuit in the district court
On March 17, 2014, a group of animal rights groups, civil liberties organizations and others filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho challenging the law.
The plaintiffs are: the Animal Legal Defense Fund; People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals; American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho; The Center for Food Safety; Farm Sanctuary; River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary; Western Watersheds Project; Sandpoint Vegetarians; Idaho Concerned Area Residents for the Environment; Idaho Hispanic Caucus Institute for Research and Education; Farm Forward; the news journal CounterPunch; author and journalist Will Potter, animal agriculture scholar and historian James McWilliams; would-be-investigator Monte Hickman; freelance journalist Blair Koch; and agricultural investigations expert Daniel Hauff.
Their complaint  argues that the law violates the First Amendment, because it impairs public debate about animal welfare, food safety and environmental issued by criminalizing undercover investigations. The law gags “speech that is critical of industrial agriculture, including speech that advances significant public interests in protecting Idahoans’ safety,” the complaint said.
District Court ruling and appeal
On August 3, 2015, the U.S. District Court Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled that the law violates both the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, because it suppresses speech critical of agricultural productions and it was “motivated in substantial part by animus towards animal welfare groups.”
In his decision , Judge Winmill explained that the law is an impermissible content-based and viewpoint-based restriction, because it fails the strict scrutiny test. Judge Winmill granted a permanent injunction on November 12, 2015.
On December 10, 2015, the state of Idaho filed an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
On June 24, 2016, Media Coalition Foundation joined an amicus brief  filed in support of the plaintiffs. The brief urges the Ninth Circuit to uphold the lower court’s ruling that the “ag-gag” law is unconstitutional.
The amicus brief argues that the law, particularly the section that prohibits unauthorized audio or video recording at agricultural facilities, is a content- and viewpoint-based restriction on protected speech. It argues that there is no compelling or recognizable interest in protecting the privacy of agricultural operations. It also explains that the law criminalizes important undercover reporting.
Other amicus briefs filed, all in support of affirmance:
- Abrams Institute for Freedom of Expression and scholars of First Amendment and information law
- Erwin Chemerinsky (Dean and professor of First Amendment law at the University of California, Irvin School of Law)
- Food & Water Watch and Center for Biological Diversity
- Government Accountability Project
- The Idaho Building Trades Council and the Idaho AFL-CIO
- The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 22 media organizations
- United Farm Workers of America