ASNE joins three amicus efforts

Summer has proven to be a hot time for ASNE's amicus activity as we've participated as amicus in three different cases in recent weeks. Here's a recap of the cases, with a link to each of the filings. 
  • Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Wasden: This is a challenge to the constitutionality of the Idaho's new "Ag-Gag" law, which imposes penalties for anyone who engages in "agricultural production interference," including many newsgathering activities. The United States District Court ruled the law unconstitutional (in a case where we also joined as amicus). An appeal has now been filed, and we joined a brief drafted by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press that supports the ALDF. Our brief argues that the Idaho law infringes on the First Amendment rights of those who want to inform the public about food safety by criminalizing the press and others who want to engage in oversight on matters of public concern. This speech about food safety gets the highest level of protection under the First Amendment and journalists. The Idaho statute is a content-based restriction of speech that, as a result, must survive a "strict scrutiny" review. However, this statute fails that test because it targets speech, which highlights "conduct of an agricultural production facility's operations." The law is unnecessary in terms of protecting against unwarranted intrusions on legitimate property interests because the federal government has already determined that some invasions on personal property are warranted where food safety is involved. Further, this law is not narrowly tailored to protect landowners. It is simply a blanket order on all image and audio recordings of agricultural operations that is overly broad and sweeps in a number of protected activities.
  • Boal v. United States: This brief, drafted by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, supports the efforts of Mark Boal, a documentary filmmaker who is proactively seeking to protect the raw recordings of and his notes from conversations with Bowe Bergdahl, an U.S. solider who was held captive by the Taliban. The brief argues that courts need to recognize the impact of forcing journalists to turn over sources and the importance of allowing Boal to make this argument to a federal district court rather than defending himself in a military court. 
  • Hassell v. Bird: Also drafted by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, this "amicus letter" supports Yelp against an attempt to force the site to take down two reviews of a lawyer and law firm written by a Yelp user. The lower court ruling in favor of the plaintiff also threatened Yelp with contempt of court if the company did not remove the defamatory posts even though Yelp had not been given the opportunity to appear in court and oppose this order, which had been entered against the individual reviewer.