Laffey, Leitner & Goode LLC is pleased to announce yet another victory after a storied First Amendment battle with the State of Wisconsin that has been pending for more than six years. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued a 91-page opinion on November 13, 2023, reversing the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin’s dismissal of a First Amendment challenge to Wisconsin’s so-called hunter harassment law and directing that judgment be entered in favor of LLG’s clients.
The “hunter harassment law,” as it is called by hunting proponents, sought to criminalize photography and videography of hunting activities on public lands and made approaching or even “maintaining a visual or physical proximity” to a hunter on public lands a crime. LLG worked the case with lawyers from the Animal Legal Defense Fund (“ALDF”) and is pleased to share the victory with one of the country’s finest animal advocacy organizations. Plaintiffs included Joseph Brown, a documentary filmmaker and professor, Stephanie Losse, a photographer and animal rights advocate, and Louis Weisberg, the publisher of the Wisconsin Gazette, a local newspaper.
The Seventh Circuit’s decision reversed a grant of summary judgment to the State of Wisconsin and remanded the case to the district court for entry of judgment in the plaintiffs’ favor. LLG partner Mark M. Leitner, who briefed and argued the case on appeal, tells us, “regardless of a political majority’s desire to stifle expression, the First Amendment forbids Wisconsin from punishing people based on the viewpoint they hold. We are elated that the Seventh Circuit recognized and enforced this bedrock legal rule in our case, and struck down the unconstitutional so-called “hunter harassment” statute.” Joseph S. Goode, a partner at LLG whose extensive animal law experience led to the opportunity to proudly represent ALDF and the plaintiffs for this cause, calls the decision “a victory for society that enables the expression of all and especially for those who fight every day for a culture where the concerns for animals are understood.”
While this has been a long slog, LLG is proud of the work it did for ALDF, Professor Brown, Ms. Losse, Mr. Weisberg, and all others who fight to ensure free speech and access to knowledge about animal welfare. The First Amendment violations presented in this case are clear, and the Court’s ruling here is an unmitigated win for all who hold our Constitution sacrosanct.
To read more about the case, please refer to this link to ALDF’s Press Release.