A government judge as of late struck down a North Carolina “ag-gag” law for disregarding the First Amendment. US District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder said in his 73-page verdict that specific arrangements under the state’s Property Protection Act “fail to pass muster under the First Amendment.”
The ruling hinged on what activity the ag-gag law was targeting: trespassing or speech, in this case defined as the capturing and dissemination of the information.
Schroeder wrote that the law as enacted, “will always target speech and speech will always be the activity that triggers the liability” of the $5,000 daily civil penalty.
Nor did the defense show that it considered less intrusive ways of protecting private property, Schroeder wrote.
The law—which was passed by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2015—ensured ranchers by condemning covert examinations on plant ranches by punishing unapproved people who film or take photos on non-open business property with fines of up to $5,000 or imprison time.
An alliance of animal-rights and advocacy organizations—which include People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Center for Food Safety, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Farm Sanctuary, Food & Water Watch, Government Accountability Project, Farm Forward, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals—filed a lawsuit in 2016 testing the law’s constitutionality, contending that its arrangements kept them from researching North Carolina industry employers engaged with unlawful or untrustworthy conduct.
As of late, government courts have additionally struck down comparative ag-gag laws in Kansas, Idaho, Iowa, and Utah for being against the constitution.