Judge Strikes Down Idaho ‘Ag-Gag’ Law, Raising Questions For Other States – LUKE RUNYON `AUGUST 04, 2015 5:26 PM ET

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Laws in Montana, Utah, North Dakota, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and North Carolina have also made it illegal for activists to smuggle cameras into industrial animal operations.

Laws in Montana, Utah, North Dakota, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and North Carolina have also made it illegal for activists to smuggle cameras into industrial animal operations.


Idaho’s so-called “ag-gag” law, which outlawed undercover investigations of farming operations, is no more. A judge in the federal District Court for Idaho decided Monday that it was unconstitutional, citing First Amendment protections for free speech.

But what about the handful of other states with similar laws on the books?

Laws in Montana, Utah, North Dakota, Missouri, Kansas and Iowa have also made it illegal for activists to smuggle cameras into industrial animal operations. A new North Carolina law goes into effect in January 2016. But now those laws’ days could be numbered, according to the lead attorney for the coalition of animal welfare groups that sued the state of Idaho.

“This is a total victory on our two central constitutional claims,” says University of Denver law professor Justin Marceau, who represented the plaintiff, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, in the case. “Ag-gag laws violate the First Amendment and Equal Protection Clause. This means that these laws all over the country are in real danger.”

“Ag-gag” refers to a variety of laws meant to curb undercover investigations of agricultural operations, often large dairy, poultry and pork farms. The Idaho law criminalized video or audio recording of a farm without the owner’s consent and lying to a farm owner to gain employment there to do an undercover investigation.

Other “ag-gag” laws require that animal abuse be reported within a specific time frame, a tactic animal activists say is meant to prevent them from gathering evidence of an abuse pattern rather than just a singular event.

Utah’s “ag-gag” law is the subject of another federal lawsuit, filed by the ALDF and PETA. Other states’ laws go back to the early 1990s when Kansas passed criminal penalties for anyone found to damage or harm an agricultural research facility. Iowa’s statute is considered to be the first in a batch of more recent “ag-gag” laws. Signed into law in 2012, it was the first to criminalize secretly videotaping a farm without the owner’s permission.

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You Can Still Get an Abortion in Alabama – Emily Bazelon AUG. 4 2014 6:20 PM

Mississippi’s lone abortion clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, has been saved by the courts.

Photo by Stringer/Reuters

It’s been a good week in court for access to abortion—a sentence I don’t often get to write. Last week three Appeals Court judges ruled that Mississippi can’t put into effect a law that would close the state’s lone clinic, saying that each state has to independently fulfill its constitutional obligation to provide access to the procedure. On Monday, Judge Myron Thompson of federal District Court in Alabama blocked a similar restriction, keeping the state’s number of clinics at five.

The laws that have been halted aimed to require doctors to get admitting privileges at local hospitals. That sounds like a neutral box for the state to check, until you learn that the hospitals won’t grant the privileges, which is why the effect is to shutter clinics. To reject the admitting-privileges requirement, the two rulings came up with different rationales. That’s useful, for pro-choice advocates and their lawyers, going forward. Because in this war with no rest for the weary, the legal fight has already moved to Texas this week, where a trial is unfolding over another doozy of a law, which would have the biggest impact yet in shutting down clinics, if it goes into effect.

The Appeals Court decision about Mississippi came from the 5th Circuit. By a vote of 2–1, the three-judge panel said that Mississippi can’t argue that shutting its only clinic wouldn’t impose an “undue burden” on women seeking an abortion—that’s the crucial if elusive legal standard—because they could still head to a clinic in a neighboring state. The judges in the majority, appointed by Obama and Reagan, did a nice job of drawing this line in the sand, and their approach could travel. The idea that each state should stand unto itself has a federalist ring, which other Republican-appointed judges might find appealing. (Hello, Justice Kennedy?)

For support, the 5th Circuit panel reached back to the 1938 civil rights victory of Lloyd Lionel Gaines, a black man who was initially denied admission to the University of Missouri Law School, which instead offered him a tuition stipend for use in a neighboring state. The Supreme Court rejected that scheme, proclaiming that “no State can be excused from performance by what another state may do or fail to do.” As long as Roe v. Wade is on the books, Mississippi can’t close its last clinic by telling women to knock on Tennessee’s door.

Grimm, Staten Island Lawmaker, Is Charged With Fraud – By STEPHANIE CLIFFORD APRIL 28, 2014

Representative Michael G. Grimm of Staten Island; Loretta E. Lynch, the United States attorney in Brooklyn; and George Venizelos, an F.B.I. assistant director, discussed the congressman’s indictment.

Credit Anthony Lanzilote for The New York Times

For more than two years, federal investigators delved into the background of Representative Michael G. Grimm, a Republican from Staten Island now in his second term. They looked into his campaign finances, and examined thepotential mob ties of one business associate and the illegal doings of another.

On Monday, Mr. Grimm was indicted in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, but the charges arose not from his career in Congress, but from his earlier one — as a health-food restaurateur.

In a 20-count indictment, Mr. Grimm was accused of underreporting wages and revenue while running an Upper East Side restaurant, essentially keeping two sets of records. The fraudulent records, prosecutors said, went to his accountant, leading to inaccurate tax forms being filed with the government.

Prosecutors say that Mr. Grimm concealed more than $1 million in gross receipts for the restaurant, and failed to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in employee wages, thus fraudulently lowering his federal and state tax payments. According to the indictment, unsealed on Monday, he also lied under oath in a deposition taken in January 2013, while he was a member of Congress.

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Why It’s Getting Harder to Sue Illegal Movie Downloaders—By Dana Liebelson | Mon Feb. 17, 2014 3:00 AM GMT

Some federal judges are becoming skeptical of the methods copyright holders use to identify culprits.

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The company behind the Oscar-nominated film Dallas Buyers Club sued 31 people in a federal district court in Texas this month for allegedly using the legal file-sharing service BitTorrent to download the movie illegally. The lawsuit is one of thousands that have been brought by companies against BitTorrent users in recent years, in an effort to crack down on Americans who are stealing movies, music, porn, books, and software. But it could have a tough time. Recently, several federal judges have ruled that key information—computer internet protocol (IP) addresses—used by film studios and others to target supposed thefts is insufficient proof to proceed with the lawsuits. And copyright experts say that even though companies are still winning lots of settlements, these firms are going after fewer plaintiffs at once than they were a few years ago. This suggests that their ability to pursue large piracy cases has been hampered.

“I think the trend is towards judges looking at [piracy] cases more carefully than they used to, requiring more upfront investigation,” says Mitch Stoltz, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). “There may always be some judges who will simply rubber-stamp these cases…but there are fewer of those judges than before.”

When companies bring copyright lawsuits, they often don’t know the identities of the alleged pirates. (This was true in the Dallas Buyers Club case.) Instead, they use IP addresses, unique numbers assigned to each device on an internet network, to track the computers that have been used for illegal downloading. Then they ask a judge to issue a subpoena to the internet service providers, so they can obtain the name of the person associated with that IP address. If the judge approves this request, plaintiffs can make additional demands, such as seeking a copy of the person’s hard drive. Armed with this information, the plaintiff then typically forces the defendants to settle. The average settlement ranges from $2,000 to $5,000, says Jeffrey Antonelli, a Chicago attorney who has represented numerous people accused of illegal BitTorrent use.

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U.S. Judge Upholds Most New York Gun Limits – By THOMAS KAPLAN Published: December 31, 2013

Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signing a law last year that expanded a ban on assault weapons, a provision that was upheld. A restriction on the number of rounds allowed in a magazine was not.


Published: December 31, 2013 

A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that New York’s strict new gun laws, including an expanded ban on assault weapons, were constitutional, but struck down a provision forbidding gun owners to load more than seven rounds into a magazine.

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The ruling offered a victory to gun control advocates at the end of a year in which efforts to pass new legislation on the federal level suffered a high-profile defeat in Congress, although some new restrictions were approved in state capitals.

The judge, William M. Skretny of Federal District Court in Buffalo, said expanded bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines were legally sound because they served to “further the state’s important interest in public safety.”

The new laws in New York, enacted in January 2013, are among the most restrictive in the country. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, pushed for the state to be the first to take action after the mass school shooting in Newtown, Conn.; gun rights groups accused him of ramming through new gun restrictions they called ill-conceived, poorly understood and unconstitutional.

In a 54-page ruling, Judge Skretny struck down a well-known but troubled portion of the law, which prohibited gun owners from loading more than seven rounds into a magazine. He called the limit “an arbitrary restriction” that violated the Second Amendment.

But, saying that “whether regulating firearms is wise or warranted is not a judicial question; it is a political one,” he found that Mr. Cuomo and lawmakers had acted within their bounds when they drafted the gun laws, and specifically cited the Bushmaster rifle and 30-round magazine used in the Newtown shooting.

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