Written by: Amie Alexander, JD/MPS Candidate, William H. Bowen School of Law
On January 4, 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down portions of Idaho’s “Interference with Agriculture Production” law, ruling that it violated the First Amendment and Equal Protection. The Idaho legislature passed the legislation (See Idaho Code § 18-7042) in 2014 after undercover video footage was released of the mistreatment of dairy cattle by employees on an Idaho dairy farm. You can read the decision here.
The court affirmed a district court determination that the statute’s criminalization of misrepresentations to enter a production facility, as well as the state’s ban on audio and video recordings of a production facility’s operations, unconstitutionally infringed upon protected speech under the First Amendment. However, the court parted from the district court and reversed its determination that Idaho’s criminalization of misrepresentations to obtain records and secure employment also violated the Constitution. The court held these misrepresentations do not constitute protected speech and the criminalization of such does not violate the Equal Protection Clause.
This ruling adds to the trend of similar decisions across the country. Ten states have passed so-called “Ag-Gag” statutes – Kansas, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, Iowa, Utah, Missouri, Idaho, North Carolina, and Arkansas. Three of these statutes have been struck down as violating free speech. A Utah state law was struck down by a federal District Court. In September, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals held that Wyoming’s statute violated the First Amendment, reversing a federal District Court’s decision to uphold the law. Litigation is currently pending in Iowa.