BOISE -- Attorneys met in U.S. District Court in Boise Wednesday for a lawsuit over Idaho's agriculture security statute.
Commonly known as the ag-gag law, the statute makes it illegal to film in an agriculture facility without permission from the owners, or lie in order to get a job at an agriculture facility.
Defense attorneys have asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit. The attorney for the plaintiffs said this is standard when someone challenges a state law.
The actions of an undercover animal rights activist who shot footage in 2012 showing abuse at an Idaho dairy would now be a crime under Idaho's new agriculture security statute. A group of plaintiff's is challenging Idaho's Governor and Attorney General on whether the law is constitutional.
The plaintiffs in this case are a diverse group of animal rights organizations, labor organizations, environmental groups, and civil liberties organizations, including the ACLU of Idaho, said Justin Marceau, a law professor at the University of Denver, a counsel for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and the attorney for the plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs filed the suit against Governor Butch Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden less than three weeks after the law was enacted.
You can call it property rights issue, you can call it a trespassing issue, but at the end of the day, it's a food safety, it's an animal rights, it's a civil liberties issue because none of us are going to know where our food comes from, what happened, said Marceau.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho has been outspoken against the statute from the beginning, and is one of the parties in the lawsuit.
This lawsuit really what it is, it's about the fundamental rights that we as Idahoans have and that freedom to continue to express ourselves, whether that's through video, whether that's through audio, and that right is fundamentally challenged here with this particular law, said Leo Morales, interim director for the ACLU of Idaho.
Clay Smith, the attorney for Otter and Wasden, said he was not allowed to speak with us on camera.
Attorney Norm Semanko filed an amicus brief for four groups who side with the Otter and Wasden: The Idaho Farm Bureau, Idaho Cattle Association, Food Processors of Idaho and Idaho Heartland Coalition.
The purpose of the statute is to protect agricultural activities. It's not to put animal rights groups out of business, or to stop them from doing legitimate legal activities, but to protect agricultural facilities and the $8 billion industry that we have in Idaho, said Semanko.
Semanko said they were not surprised to see a challenge to the law, but were surprised it happened so quickly.
The problem for the plaintiffs is this isn't just about speech, Semanko said. In order to video, in order to take pictures and publish those, under the statute you would have to trespass, or you would have to lie to get a job for the purpose of causing economic harm to someone. It's much more complicated than just free speech.
The legislature put a severability clause in the law, which means the judge can rule differently on separate parts of the law.
Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court B. Lynn Winmill says he hopes to have a decision soon, but it will be a few weeks.