Utah’s ‘Ag Gag’ law could cost taxpayers about $350,000

Posted at 4:41 PM, Nov 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-17 18:41:48-05

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Attorney General’s Office and animal welfare groups are settling a lawsuit over the state’s controversial “Ag Gag” law for about $350,000.

The law, which prohibited photography or video inside an agricultural operation, was struck down in July as a violation of the First Amendment.

A file photo of protesters rallying against Utah’s ‘Ag Gag’ law in May of 2013. (FOX 13 file image)

In a filing in U.S. District Court on Friday obtained by FOX 13, attorneys for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Utah Animal Rights Coalition director Amy Meyer announced a settlement for attorney’s fees and costs with Governor Gary Herbert and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes.

“In full settlement of all of Plaintiffs’ claims for attorneys’ fees and costs in this litigation, Defendants shall pay Plaintiffs’ counsel $349,000 (the Payment), conditioned on the funding of the Payment bv the Utah legislature, on or before March 1, 2018,” wrote Stewart Gollan, an attorney for Meyer.

If the Utah State Legislature does not fund the settlement, then they will ask a judge to decide how much is paid.

The animal rights groups sued Utah after the legislature passed the law, nicknamed by activists as “Ag Gag,” in 2012. Meyer was arrested the following year when she stood on a public sidewalk and filmed a cow being moved into a slaughterhouse. The criminal case against her was ultimately dismissed.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sued the state, arguing the law targeted groups like theirs who might publicize animal abuses. (Utah media organizations, including FOX 13, sought to join the lawsuit on First Amendment grounds related to news reporting, but the judge would not allow it.)

Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, told FOX 13 when the law was struck down in July that he might run a revised bill in the 2018 legislative session.