For lawmakers in the state of Idaho, the recent debacle over the so-called "ag gag" law has just gone from bad to worse. That's because on top of being slaughtered at the Ninth Circuit, the state is now faced with the unfortunate position of having to pay the legal fees for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, which challenged the state's ag gag law as unconstitutional and won.
Luckily for the state, it has the chance to stop the fees from reaching astronomical levels, as currently the amount sits at about a quarter million dollars.
Notably, the ag gag law was passed in response to an undercover worker secretly filming animal abuse at an agricultural facility in the state. The video showed cows being intentionally, and unnecessarily, abused.
Curiously, rather than pass stringent regulations covering animal abuse and creating new jobs to monitor the industry more closely, the state decided to pass a law prohibiting individuals from making recordings like the one that exposed the appalling conduct at the Idaho facility. However, as the challengers and courts explained, the law violated the First Amendment rights of potential whistleblowers and others.
For the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the influx of cash from the legal fees would likely be very welcome. Organizations that fight for civil rights and animal rights are often severely underfunded, and when they win, awards of fees and costs can go a long way toward funding more work for the public's benefit.
However, getting paid right away isn't a sure thing. State lawmakers still have to approve the payment, which they may choose not to do if they are bold enough to defy a court order. But like their prior decision to pass clearly unconstitutional legislation, it's anyone's guess what they'll actually do.