Denver Law Professors File Second Legal Challenge to ‘Ag-Gag’ Laws

Mar 24 2014

Food Safety News
by Dan Flynn

Credit: Tiom

A pair of constitutional law professors from the University of Denver has given themselves two shots at overturning so-called state “ag-gag” laws.

Among the common features of “ag-gag” laws is a prohibition against taking pictures or making videos without permission, sanctions for not being truthful in a job application, and short timeframes for reporting animal abuse to law enforcement.

UD law professor Alan Chen will find out sometime on or after a May 15 hearing whether the challenge he leads against Utah’s “ag-gag” law will proceed in that state’s U.S District Court. The Utah attorney general has asked that the lawsuit brought on behalf of the Animal Legal Defense Fund be thrown out on the grounds that none of the plaintiffs has standing.

The lawsuit was originally brought after a Draper, UT, animal activist was charged under Utah’s “ag-gag” law, but the matter was dismissed, and attorneys for the state claim that none of the remaining plaintiffs comes anywhere near having legal standing to bring the case.

On St. Patrick’s Day, UD law professor Justin Marceau filed another “ag-gag” challenge, this one involving Idaho’s recently adopted law. The Idaho law contained an emergency clause, meaning it took effect immediately upon Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s signature.

However, the law has not been used as the basis to charge anyone yet, and it’s likely that attorneys for Idaho will claim that none of the non-profit groups or individuals on the plaintiffs’ list has standing to bring the lawsuit.

It’s not escaped notice, however, that animal activists represented by the University of Denver law professors now have similar lawsuits going in two different circuits of the U.S Court of Appeals. Utah is located in the 10th Circuit out of Denver, and Idaho is located in the 9th Circuit based in San Francisco.

Idaho recently became the seventh state to adopt a law containing at least some elements of an “ag-gag” law, named for its intent to prevent someone with possible knowledge of animal abuse from collecting evidence for authorities.

North Dakota, Montana and Kansas adopted such laws in 1990-91, and, since 2011, Utah, Iowa, Missouri and now Idaho have joined them.

Challenges to both the Idaho and Utah laws claim the statutes violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and its Supremacy Clause.

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