Iowa’s latest Agricultural Production Facility Trespass statute, signed into law by Gov. Kimberly K. Reynolds last March 14, is enjoined and prohibited from enforcement “as currently drafted” throughout the pendency of federal litigation challenging it.
Federal Judge James E. Gritzner signed a Dec. 2nd preliminary injunction that gave little to Iowa farmers while granting animal activists most everything they wanted.
The animal activists are challenging Iowa Code § 717A.3B (effective March 14, 2019). It says a person violates § 717A.3B if the person:
- Uses deception . . . on a matter that would reasonably result in a denial of access to an agricultural production facility that is not open to the public, and, through such deception, gains access to the agricultural production facility, with the intent to cause physical or economic harm or other injuries to the agricultural production facility’s operations, agricultural animals, crop, owner, personnel, equipment, building, premises, business interest, or customer[, or]
- Uses deception . . . on a matter that would reasonably result in a denial of an opportunity to be employed at an agricultural production facility that is not open to the public, and, through such deception, is so employed, with the intent to cause
Judge Gritzner is preventing the law from taking effect while the litigation goes forward. He did dismiss a Plaintiff’s cause of action involving vagueness, but that is unlikely to have much impact on the case.
The preliminary injunction is a pretty clear sign the judge is likely to agree with the animal activist Plaintiffs. It raises the expectations that he will, in the end, a rule that the Iowa statute is a “new Ag-Gag law is a content-based and viewpoint-based restriction on protected speech that cannot survive review under any form of heightened scrutiny.”
Animal activists groups, especially the Animal Legal Defense Fund, have been highly successful in challenging so-called state ag-gag laws. Generally speaking, such laws make it more legally risky to go undercover in animal agriculture facilities.
Iowa’s first “ag-gag” law, adopted in 2012, was invalidated by a federal court in January. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller appealed that ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, and Gov. Reynolds requested the Iowa Legislature passed the new law, which is now on hold.
The Iowa Attorney General may also appeal the preliminary injunction. And with the start of the Iowa Legislature less than a month away, crafting a new law is always a possibility.
On appeal, Idaho salvaged two parts of its law as the liberal Ninth Circuit ruled a state can ban misrepresentation in obtaining employment or business records.
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