We have earlier in the blog on ag-gag laws in general and Iowa law in particular, the last post on Iowa was on January 3, 2020. Animal rights groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) or the Animal Law Foundation (ALDF) conduct covert investigations on farms and ranches to uncover cases of animal cruelty. They often gain access to property through gimmicks such as applying for a job without revealing their true motives.
Farmers and ranchers understandably dislike this kind of revelation, and in rural states where they exercise political power, they have persuaded many state legislatures to ban the practice in one form or another. These statutes raise serious First Amendment issues.
As we reported in the Jan. 3 report, the District Court ruled that much of Iowa’s criminals silencing law was unconstitutional. On August 10, 2021, despite controversial opinions, the Eighth District partially upheld the decision and partially reversed it. Animal Legal Foundation v. Reynolds, 2021 WL 3504493 (8th Cir. 2021).
The court upheld a section of the law prohibiting access to agricultural production facilities under a false pretext (provision on access). The court ruled that this section simply prohibits encroachment on private property, which is legally recognized damage. It is well known that fraudulent consent is not consent at all.
The main body of the Supreme Court on this issue is USA vs Alvarez… Alvarez claimed to be a retired Marine awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. None of the claims were true, and the government held him accountable under the Stolen Valor Act. By 6 votes to 3, the fractured Supreme Court ruled that the statute violated the First Amendment.
The problem was that most of the judges could not agree on the rationale. A multitude of four judges believed that any attempt to prohibit false statements required rigorous scrutiny. The majority agreed that the Government had a compelling interest in preventing false medal claims, but felt that the ridicule of exposing the lie was sufficient to substantiate it. With regard to plurality, the old adage applies: the cure for bad speech is more speech. The only exceptions to the First Amendment are cases involving “legally recognized harm arising from a false statement.”
The consensus opinion of the two judges applied an interim test based on the theory that the truth or falsity of any such statement could be easily proven. The agreement argues that small white lies are essential lubricants for the functioning of society. He also suggested that even a deliberately false statement could serve the public well by provoking a clearer explanation of the truth. The agreement also argued that a narrower version of the statute could serve the purpose of protecting the integrity of medals of valor, while leaving room for useful lies.
Majority opinion in ReynoldsJudge Collotton ruled that the trespass is legally harmful because it is an ancient offense long recognized in the United States. It also ruled that trespassing on property by misleading is a well-recognized offense. The District Court rejected this argument because a claimant in an infringement case could only be entitled to nominal damages. But the Eighth Circuit ruled that nominal damage is awarded when legal damage was incurred but not material damage. These damages compensate the owner for the breach of confidentiality and the loss of the right of exclusion, both of which are recognized by law.
The law also prohibits the inclusion of a false statement in a job application (job regulation). The majority agreed with the District Court that the employment clause did violate the First Amendment. The majority reasoned that, as written, the law prohibits any misconceptions in job applications, not just material ones. Thus, the statute was broader than required to fulfill its legitimate objectives.
The concurrent opinion of Judge Graz “hesitantly” agreed with the majority, as the majority opinion was in accordance with “the current legislation as far as we can determine it on the basis of limited and sometimes vague precedent.” His indecision stemmed from the current “cloud of censorship” atmosphere; Judge Graz did not want to give the government more power to silence people.
A partial disagreement, according to Judge Grundar, would support the entire statute. With regard to the access clause, Judge Gründer considers that the phrase “legally recognized harm” used in Alvarez meant enough trauma to maintain a position in federal court. There is no doubt that the landowner has the right to bring an infringement claim.
Judge Gruender would also uphold the employment clause, primarily based on language from Alvarez: “False statements are made to commit fraud, receive money or other valuable considerations such as job offers.” Partial dissent also noted that 9th The Circuit upheld a similar provision in Idaho law. Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Wasden, 878 F.3d 1184, 1201-02 (9thCir. 2018).
We are considering Reynolds as a huge win for the agricultural industry. This is the first time a district court has ruled that an access clause satisfies the First Amendment, as the concurrent opinion points out. Even an unfavorable decision in relation to the employment regulation makes it possible to quickly and easily correct this: to amend the law requiring that the misstatement of facts be material. Thus, the opinion represents a roadmap to the adoption of constitutional laws on agaths.
We also believe that Judge Grundr’s partial consent gives specific meaning to the cryptic language in
Alvarez requiring legally recognized harm. While the issue of legal capacity may be blurred on the sidelines, there is a significant body of case law governing federal status in virtually all areas of law.
The likelihood of a review of the case by the Supreme Court, in our opinion, is high. Three chains – 8th, nineth and 10th – weighed the topic with different results. 4th the chain will likely review this issue soon and there is a case pending before 10th scheme. The court should clarify Alvarez…
The content of this article is intended to provide general guidance on the subject. You should seek professional advice regarding your specific circumstances.