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Animal Legal Defense Fund v. United States Department of Agriculture

Foie gras is a food product made from the liver of a duck or goose. To create it, the duck or goose is force-fed a special mix of food which causes a large buildup of fat in the bird's liver. This gives the product its signature taste. Plaintiffs, Animal Legal Defense Fund, comprised of four animal rights organizations and three individuals. The Defendant, United States Department of Agriculture, comprised of the Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS), and two individuals. Plaintiff Animal Legal Defense Fund asked Defendant (FSIS) to initiate rulemaking under the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA) “to exclude Foie gras from the food supply as an adulterated and diseased product.” They argued that the force-feeding process could cause infections and illnesses for the animals and the consumption of the birds could trigger the onset of illness and disease in humans. FSIS denied the petition to ban the food product. The Plaintiff Animal Legal Defense Fund then filed this action for judicial review. Defendant FSIS argued that the Plaintiffs lacked Article III standing, that the PPIA does not protect the interests asserted by the animal rights organizations, and that in any event, FSIS acted within its discretion in denying the petition. The United States District Court, C.D. California concluded that the Plaintiff, Animal Legal Defense Fund had standing to bring this action and that their interests fell within the “zone” of interests protected by the PPIA. However, the Court also held that Defendants, United States Department of Agriculture, did not act arbitrarily, capriciously, or contrary to law in denying the petition. Accordingly, the Court Granted the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, and Denied Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment.

Animal Legal Defense Fund v. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Animal Advocacy Organizations argued the district court erred in ruling United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s decision to renew an exhibitor’s license did not violate the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). According to the organizations, the USDA may not renew a license when USDA knows an exhibitor is noncompliant with any animal welfare standards on the anniversary of the day USDA originally issued the license. The 11th Circuit, however, found it had subject matter jurisdiction to review the organizations' challenge to the renewal under the Administrative Procedure Act, and that the USDA's interpretation—which did not condition renewal on compliance with animal welfare standards on the anniversary of the license issuance date—was a reasonable one. The district court’s decision was therefore affirmed.
Animal Legal Defense Fund v. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture


The matter before the court concerns Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment and Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings with respect to subject-matter jurisdiction. Plaintiffs (ALDF and others) petitioned the USDA and FSIS to promulgate regulations condemning force-fed foie gras as an adulterated food product under the Poultry Products Inspection Act (“PPIA”). FSIS refused to do so, concluding that foie gras was not adulterated or diseased; Plaintiffs then filed the instant lawsuit claiming that decision was arbitrary, capricious, and in violation of the APA. The Court determined that the instant action is not about promulgating rules, but about banning force-fed foie gras. Such a decision falls under the USDA's discretion by law.

Animal Legal Defense Fund v. State, Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries


The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), along with others, filed a petition for injunctive relief and a writ of mandamus against the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fish (DWF) for permitting the exhibit of a real tiger ("Tony") at a truck stop owned by Michael Sandlin. An ordinance prohibiting the display of wild animals was in effect when Tony was acquired. Subsequent to that, the Louisiana legislature adopted a law that required those who legally held big cats who were "grandfathered in," obtain a permit from the DWF. After Tony's caretaker, Michael Sandlin was denied a DWF permit because he was not in compliance with the Parish ordinances, Sandlin sued the Parish. The Parish then carved out an exception for him in the ordinances and the DWF, through Secretary Barham, issued a state permit to Sandlin. ADLF and others sued, alleging that the permit violated Louisiana law and the renewal of the permit was arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion.  At the first trial court hearing, the trial court issued a judgment granting the preliminary and permanent injunction ordering DFW to revoke the permit, but the truck stop owner alleged he had not received notice of the hearing and therefore decided to intervene. Once the truck stop was allowed to intervene, a hearing on all pending issues was held, which resulted in the intervenors appealing the trial court’s judgment and the trial court’s denial for a new trial. On appeal here, the appeals court dismissed the appeal, in part, and affirmed, in part, the November 17, 2011 judgment of the trial court. With regard to the issue of standing for the injunction, this court found that the individual named plaintiffs (residents of Louisiana) had taxpayer standing, but the court did not find that plaintiff ALDF alleged and proved sufficient interest to sustain a right of action seeking an injunction against any unlawful conduct by DWF. That part of the November 17, 2011 judgment of the trial court was reversed. Further, the court found that, based on factual findings, there was no error in the trial court's legal conclusion that Michael Sandlin did not meet the legal requirements for a Potentially Dangerous Wild Quadruped permit, and that permanent injunctive relief, enjoining DWF from issuing Michael Sandlin future permits for Tony, was warranted. That part of the trial court judgment was affirmed.

Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Reynolds Plaintiffs, a collection of local and national non-profit organizations brought this action alleging that Iowa Code § 717A.3A, which criminalizes agrigcultural facility fraud by either obtaining access to an agricultural facility on false pretenses or making a false statement or false representation in regard to the application or agreement to be employed by an agricultural facility, impeded their ability to advocate for their respective causes. Some of the non-profit organizations listed as plaintiffs, engaged in undercover investigations where investigators serve as employees at argricultural facilities to gather information about the inner workings of slaughterhouses and other facilities. The plaintiffs alleged that the Iowa statute was unconstitutional on its face becuase it violated the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Discrict Court determined that the plaintiffs have standing to make their claim and have an injury sufficient to suppor their standing. The defendants sought a motion to dismiss. The District Court ultimately denied the motion to dismiss with respect to the First Amendment claim and granted the motion to dismiss with respect to the Equal Protection claim.
Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Reynolds In 2012, Iowa passed a statute (Iowa code § 717A.3A) that criminalized gaining access to agricultural facilities under false pretenses and making a false representation on a job application for those facilities. Plaintiffs in this case (animal rights groups including the Animal Legal Defense Fund and PETA) brought suit alleging that the statute was unconstitutional and sought to enjoin the Defendants (governor of Iowa) from enforcing it. Their complaint alleged that the statute violates the First Amendment as discrimination on the basis of content, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by targeting animals rights groups, and violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by burdening the freedom of speech. This case decides the Defendants’ motion to dismiss the Plaintiffs’ complaint based on lack of standing and failure to state a claim because the outlawed conduct is not protected by the First Amendment as false statements and is rationally related to the legitimate government interest of protecting private property, thereby not violating the Fourteenth Amendment. The court denies Defendants' motion with respect to the First Amendment, concluding that Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged the intent to suppress their message because of their viewpoint. However, the court grants the motion to dismiss for the claim of a Fourteenth Amendment violation because the statute in fact serves a legitimate government purpose in protecting private property.
Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Otter In a ‘hold your tongue and challenge now’ First Amendment challenge to an Idaho statute that criminalizes undercover investigations and videography at “agricultural production facilities,” the Animal Legal Defense Fund, as well as various other organizations and individuals, (collectively, “ALDF”), brought suit. The State defendants, Governor Butch Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, moved to dismiss the ALDF's claims. The claims against the Governor were dismissed under 11th Amendment immunity because the ALDF failed to explain the requisite connection between the Governor and enforcement of section 18–7024. The court also found that since the ALDF failed to allege a concrete plan to violate subsection (e), it lacked standing to challenge section 18–7042(1)(e) and the claim in regards to that provision was therefore dismissed. However, the ALDF’s First Amendment, bare animus Equal Protection, and preemption claims survived the motion to dismiss.
Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Mendes


Appellants ALDF asserted causes of action for violation of Penal Code section 597t for confining calves without an “adequate exercise area,” and for commission of unfair business practices under Business and Professions Code section 17200 et seq. In affirming the lower court's decision to dismiss the action, this court held that there is no private cause of action pursuant to Penal Code section 597t under the present circumstances, and none of the appellants have shown an ability to allege any facts of economic injury.

Animal Legal Defense Fund v. LT Napa Partners LLC, Plaintiff and respondent Animal Legal Defense Fund filed an action against defendants and appellants LT Napa Partners LLC and Kenneth Frank for unfair competition, alleging defendants sold foie gras in their Napa restaurant in violation of California law. Defendants moved to strike plaintiff's claim pursuant to the anti-SLAPP statute, arguing it was exercising its free speech rights by protesting the law. Defendants appealed the trial court's denial of the motion. The appeals court affirmed the lower court's decision because the ALDF demonstrated probability of prevailing on the claim that it had standing under Unfair Competition Law (UCL); showed basis for liability against chef; and showed probability of prevailing on its claim that owner and chef unlawfully sold foie gras.
Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Herbert This case deals with the constitutionality of Utah's "ag gag" law, enacted in 2012. The law criminalizes lying to obtain access to an agricultural operation and the subsequent recording or filming once inside. According to statements made enactment, it is directed at undercover operations that investigate farm animal abuse. Plaintiffs assert that the law violates their First Amendment rights. On review of motions, the court first looked at whether the First Amendment applies to this type of "lying." Because a recent U.S. Supreme Court case makes lying that causes "cognizable legal harm" outside the protection of the First Amendment, the court examined the type of lying at issue in the Utah law. Ultimately, the court found that lying to gain access to these agricultural facilities does not in itself cause a legally cognizable harm. Thus, "absent an additional showing of harm, under either interpretation, at least some of the lies criminalized by the Act retain First Amendment protection." With regard to First Amendment protections for the act of recording once at an agricultural operation and whether a strict scrutiny standard applies, the court looked to other circuits that found the act of making speech (i.e., recording/filming) is protected. The State countered with the fact that such recording occurs on private property, but the court found the government cannot place criminal restrictions on speech simply because it occurs on private property. The court noted that the property owner can indeed remove the person from the property and sue for any damages resulting from the trespass, which is different than prosecution by the state to curtail speech. Finally, after finding that the act impinges protected speech, the court then analyzed whether it withstood a strict scrutiny review. The State proffered government interests that include concerns over worker protection and disease outbreak. However, the court noted nothing in the legislative history on these claims or any actual incidents that supported these asserted government interests. The court found the Act did not survive strict scrutiny as it was not narrowly tailored and instead was directed at the content of the speech (the act of recording a facility). The Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment was granted and the State's Motion for Summary Judgment was denied.

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