A federal court has ordered the state of Idaho to pay $249,875 in attorney fees and costs to the groups that sued over the state’s “ag-gag” law, the law passed by the state Legislature making it a crime to surreptitiously videotape agricultural operations. Idaho lawmakers approved the law in 2014 after the state’s $2.5 billion dairy industry complained that videos of cows being abused at a southern Idaho dairy filmed in 2012 unfairly hurt their business. The Los Angeles-based animal rights group Mercy For Animals released the videos, which showed workers at Bettencourt Dairy beating, stomping and otherwise abusing cows in 2012.
A federal judge overturned the law, ruling that it violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill found that the law’s “primary purpose is to protect agricultural facility owners by, in effect, suppressing speech critical of animal-agriculture practices.” He ruled that evidence indicated the law was “intended to silence animal welfare activists, or other whistleblowers who seek to publish speech critical of the agricultural production industry.”
The state appealed, but lost. You can read the costs-and-fees order here; the plaintiffs had asked for $259,318, while the state had argued it shouldn’t have to pay more than $185,872.