Animal Legal Def. Fund, Iowa Citizens for Cmty. Improvement, Bailing Out Benji, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. v. Reynolds

Citation297 F.Supp.3d 901
Decision Date27 February 2018
Docket NumberNo. 4:17–cv–00362–JEG,4:17–cv–00362–JEG
Parties ANIMAL LEGAL DEFENSE FUND, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Bailing Out Benji, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc., and Center for Food Safety, Plaintiffs, v. Kimberly K. REYNOLDS, in her official capacity as Governor of Iowa, Tom Miller, in his official capacity as Attorney General of Iowa, and Bruce E. Swanson, in his official capacity as County Attorney for Montgomery County, Iowa, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Iowa

George A. Kimbrell, Pro Hac Vice, Center for Food Safety, Portland, OR, Paige Michele Tomaselli, Pro Hac Vice, Center for Food Safety, San Francisco, CA, Rita N. Bettis, ACLU of Iowa Foundation, Des Moines, IA, Alan K. Chen, Pro Hac Vice, Justin F. Marceau, Pro Hac Vice, University of Denver, Sturm College of Law, Denver, CO, David Samuel Muraskin, Pro Hac Vice, Public Justice, P.C., Washington, DC, Kelsey Rinehart Eberly, Pro Hac Vice, Matthew Glen Liebman, Pro Hac Vice, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Cotati, CA, Leslie A. Brueckner, Pro Hac Vice, Public Justice, P.C., Oakland, CA, Matthew Strugar, Pro Hac Vice, Law Office of Matthew Strugar, Los Angeles, CA, for Plaintiffs.

Jeffrey S. Thompson, Jacob John Larson, Attorney General of Iowa, Des Moines, IA, for Defendants.


JAMES E. GRITZNER, Senior JudgeThis matter comes before the court on a Motion to Dismiss (the Motion) pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), ECF No. 18, filed by Defendants Kimberly Reynolds, Tom Miller, and Bruce Swanson (collectively, Defendants). Defendants request an order dismissing in its entirety the Complaint, ECF No. 1, filed by Plaintiffs Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI), Bailing Out Benji, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. (PETA), and Center for Food Safety (CFS) (collectively, Plaintiffs). Defendants argue that Plaintiffs lack standing to bring their claims and also fail to state a claim for violation of their constitutional rights. No party requested oral argument, and the Court finds oral argument is unnecessary. The matter is fully submitted and ready for disposition.

A. Undercover Investigations at Iowa Agricultural Production Facilities

Undercover investigations have long been an important tool used by journalists and advocacy groups to gather information about the inner workings of slaughterhouses and other agricultural facilities. Because Iowa is the nation's largest producer of pork and eggs, as well as a major source of other animal products, agricultural facilities in Iowa have been subject to numerous such investigations in recent years. For example, a 2008 undercover investigation at an Iowa pig farm revealed instances of workers beating pigs with rods and sticking clothespins into pigs' eyes and faces, leading to criminal charges being filed against multiple employees. Undercover investigations in the 2000s at a kosher slaughterhouse in Iowa revealed instances of cows being slaughtered not in accordance with kosher practices, such as by having their tracheas removed with meat hooks while fully conscious, and cows remaining conscious for minutes after their throats had been slit. Similar undercover investigations in other states have resulted in felony convictions for cruelty to animals or have spurred formal investigations by federal and state regulators. Undercover investigations at agricultural production facilities document other issues besides animal cruelty, such as unsafe working conditions, improper food safety practices, violations of labor law, or violations of environmental law.

Most agricultural facilities, such as slaughterhouses, are not open to the public. Investigators have thus typically gained access to facilities by securing employment at the facilities through standard hiring channels. Investigators serve as regular employees performing the tasks demanded of them but also document activities in the facilities—such as animal cruelty, unsanitary conditions, pollution, sexual misconduct, and violations of labor law—using hidden recording equipment. Most undercover investigations use employees new to a facility rather than existing employees, who are often reluctant to become whistleblowers due to fear of retaliation, the risk of termination, and immigration concerns. Employers, meanwhile, seek to prevent undercover investigations by inquiring during the application process about whether a candidate has any connections to certain animal protection organizations. At other agricultural facilities, such as large-scale commercial dog breeding facilities, undercover investigators instead pose as breeders or brokers to gain access.

B. Iowa Code § 717A.3A : Agricultural Production Facility Fraud

On March 2, 2012, former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed into law H.F. 589, 84 Gen. Assemb., 2nd Reg. Sess. (Iowa 2012), which criminalizes "agricultural production facility fraud." A person commits the crime of agricultural production facility fraud if the person willfully:

a. Obtains access to an agricultural production facility by false pretenses[, or]
b. Makes a false statement or representation as part of an application or agreement to be employed at an agricultural production facility, if the person knows the statement to be false, and makes the statement with an intent to commit an act not authorized by the owner of the agricultural production facility, knowing that the act is not authorized.

Iowa Code § 717A.3A. An "agricultural production facility" is "an animal facility" as defined in the Iowa Code or a "crop operation property." Id. § 717A.1(3). An "animal facility" includes "a location where an agricultural animal is maintained for agricultural production purposes, including but not limited to a location dedicated to farming ..., a livestock market, exhibition, or a vehicle used to transport the animal," as well as animal research locations, veterinary facilities, kennels, and pet shops. Id. § 717A.1(5). An "agricultural animal" is defined to include "[a]n animal that is maintained for its parts or products having commercial value." Id. § 717A.1(1)(a).

The first conviction for violation of § 717A.3A is a serious misdemeanor, and a second or subsequent conviction is an aggravated misdemeanor. Id. § 717A.3A(2). A person can also be held criminally liable for conspiring to violate this statute or for aiding and abetting a violation. Id. § 717A.3A(3)(a).

Plaintiffs allege that § 717A.3A was introduced in response to past undercover investigations in Iowa, including a 2011 investigation at a pork plant in Kamrar, Iowa, that generated media coverage of footage of pigs and piglets being abused. The Complaint details a number of statements made by legislators and lobbyists in conjunction with the enactment of § 717A.3A. The then-president of the Iowa Senate stated that he supported the legislation to "make producers feel more comfortable." Compl. ¶ 51, ECF No. 1. Another senator supporting § 717A.3A said, "What we're aiming at is stopping these groups that go out and gin up campaigns that they use to raise money by trying to give the agriculture industry a bad name." Compl. ¶ 52. Another senator characterized § 717A.3A as "an attempt to protect agriculture." Compl. ¶ 54. Plaintiffs allege, on information and belief, that § 717A.3A received support in the legislature because it would silence animal protection organizations.

C. Plaintiffs and Their Interests in Undercover Investigations

Plaintiffs are a collection of national and local non-profit organizations that engage in advocacy that they allege is impaired by § 717A.3A.


ALDF is a national non-profit animal protection organization "that uses education, public outreach, investigations, legislation, and litigation to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals, including those raised for food." Compl. ¶ 26. ALDF provides legal assistance and training to law enforcement and promotes enforcement of civil and criminal laws and regulations concerning animal welfare, as well as legislative and industry reform.

ALDF uses undercover investigations to provide information used in advocacy and outreach. ALDF has previously conducted undercover investigations at agricultural facilities across the country, including in Iowa. ALDF would like to conduct an investigation at an agricultural production facility in Iowa and has a "professional working relationship" with a licensed private investigator in the state. Compl. ¶ 26. Since the statute's enactment, § 717A.3A has prevented ALDF from engaging in any undercover allegations in Iowa. ALDF also alleges that § 717A.3A has diminished the supply of investigations conducted by others in Iowa, which impairs its litigation and outreach efforts.

As noted above, part of ALDF's organizational mission includes engaging in lobbying and litigation to promote its interests in animal welfare. ALDF alleges that it has had to spend significant resources lobbying and litigating against statutes such as § 717A.3A, detracting from the organization's ability to spend those resources in other ways in service of its organizational mission.

2. CCI

CCI is an Iowa non-profit organization that seeks to empower individuals to engage in grassroots advocacy. CCI engages in advocacy concerning clean water, environmental preservation, labor rights, racial justice, and immigrant rights. CCI's members include workers in agricultural facilities, and CCI has worked with such employees to document poor or unsafe working conditions in agricultural facilities. In 2012, for example, CCI collected photographic evidence of working conditions at a facility near Algona, Iowa, leading to OSHA citations against the facility. CCI alleges that in 2015, following the enactment of § 717A.3A, it refrained from conducting an investigation into whether an egg and poultry facility in Iowa required workers to pay for their own...

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1 books & journal articles
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    ...People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. v. Stein, 737 Fed. Appx. 122 (4th Cir. 2018); Animal Legal Def. Fund v. Reynolds, 297 F. Supp. 3d 901 (S.D. Iowa 2018). 182. See, e.g. , Animal Legal Def. Fund v. Reynolds, No. 17-cv-362 2019, WL 140069, 49 ELR 20007 (S.D. Iowa Jan. 9, 2019)......

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