Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Wasden

Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Otter, 118 F. Supp. 3d 1195 (D. Idaho 2015) (now ALDF v. Wasden)

Most recent action

January 18, 2018: Last week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued an opinion affirming the ruling below in part and reversing in part.  The court applied the test from U.S. v. Alvarez and held that the provisions of the law banning misrepresentation to enter a production facility and the ban on audio or video recording of the facility violate the First Amendment.  However, the court reversed the ruling of the district court and held that misrepresentation to gain employment or to obtain records are not unconstitutional.  The court held that these sections focused misrepresentation that results in specific, tangible harm.

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 [4] 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 [3] 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 [2], 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.

Amicus brief

On June 24, 2016, Media Coalition Foundation joined an amicus brief [1] 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.

The amicus brief is signed by Association of American Publishersthe American Booksellers for Free Expression, Authors GuildFreedom to Read Foundation and Media Coalition Foundation.

Other amicus briefs filed, all in support of affirmance:

Last updated: Jan 18, 2018