From Labor to Media to First Amendment Scholars, More than 50 People and Organizations Agree the Iowa Ag-Gag Law Is Unconstitutional

I want to highlight the excellent amicus curiae briefs submitted in support of the challenge to Iowa’s Ag-Gag law.

Ag-Gag laws seek to criminalize undercover investigations at factory farms and other animal agricultural facilities by making it illegal to take videos or photographs inside such facilities or failing to disclose one’s affiliation with an animal rights organization when applying for a job. In January of this year, we succeeded in having a court declare that Iowa’s Ag-Gag law is unconstitutional. Iowa appealed that decision. As part of the appeal, more than 50 people and organizations have signed onto amicus curiae, or friend of the court, briefs, explaining who they are, why they care, and why they agree that Iowa’s law is unconstitutional.

  • A brief of 24 First Amendment scholars written by the Yale Law School Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic details how deception is frequently used to gather news and provides historical details of journalists going undercover to report on the pre-Civil War slave trade, the execution of abolitionist John Brown, Gloria Steinem’s undercover exposé of the lives of Playboy Club Bunnies, and others.

  • The amicus brief for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 22 other media organizations explains how the Iowa Ag-Gag law threatens journalism by criminalizing disclosures by sources to the press, otherwise chill the reporter-source relationship, and even chilling journalists themselves who fear prosecution under the statute’s conspiracy provision.

  • The United Farmworkers of America submitted a brief explaining that the Iowa Ag-Gag law compounds pressure on a workforce already facing disproportionate risk of injury, wage theft, forced labor, and sexual abuse and harassment in the work place. By criminalizing reasonable steps taken in the investigation and documentation of unlawful employment conditions, the Ag-Gag law chills the ability of farm workers to investigate and document workplace violations and file formal complaints to vindicate their rights. UFW is represented by Advancing Law for Animals.

  • The Iowa Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO) submitted a brief explaining how the Ag-Gag law’s criminalization of using deception to gain employment at an agricultural facility threatens labor organizing and the protected union practice of “salting”—having union organizers obtain employment at a facility with the intent of encouraging unionization.

  • Erwin Chemerisnky, Dean of Berkeley Law School, submitted a brief detailing the First Amendment protections afforded to false statements and how the Iowa law violates those protections.

  • Brook Kroeger and Ted Conover of NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute are two of the leading experts in undercover investigative practices in journalism. Their brief details the crucial role of undercover reporting in journalism and how the Iowa Ag-Gag law endangers it. They are represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights.

  • Finally, the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, a non-profit coalition of journalists, librarians, lawyers, educators and other Iowans devoted to open government, submitted a brief explaining the dangers of the Iowa Ag-Gag law poses to open government and journalism.

Thank you to all these friends of the court in explaining how this law threatens not just animal rights activists but a wide variety of people, organizations, and interests!

There were no amicus briefs supporting the law.

And, of course, if you’re interested, here are the briefs of the parties in the case: