June 28, 2018
A challenge against a North Carolina law designed to discourage undercover animal activism will be allowed to continue. The 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled the lawsuit can go forward, reversing an earlier decision by a federal court. The North Carolina Property Protection Act allows business owners to sue for harm to their business if a whistleblower goes public.
A federal court threw out the lawsuit, noting the state has not sued anyone in relation to this law. The plaintiffs in the suit are Public Justice, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Center for Food Safety, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Farm Sanctuary, Food and Water Watch, the Government Accountability Project, Farm Forward, and ASPCA. These groups argue the law interferes with their plans to conduct undercover investigations of government facilities in North Carolina to gather evidence of unethical and illegal animal practices and to disseminate this information to the public.
The 4th Circuit Court said the law may harm the plaintiffs’ first amendment rights if the threat of action by the state, not actual action, is stopping the groups from conducting undercover investigations and making public statements. North Carolina’s law took effect January 1, 2016, after Governor Pat McCrory’s veto was overridden by the state legislature.
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