(Reno) Today attorney Gordon Cowan representing Laura Leigh, president of Wild Horse Education (WHE) and journalist for Horseback Magazine, filed yet another monumental brief in the battle to protect the public’s “right to know” about the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro program. This case began in federal district court, has gone to the Ninth Circuit Court, back to district and now back to the Ninth Circuit Court.
In February of 2012 the Ninth Circuit ruled that the press was “the guardian of the public and the judiciary the guardian of the free press.” and that the government must prove that restrictions were “narrowly tailored” to suit that premise.
In hearings this past year back in district court the BLM presented a “financial concern” and issues that were not applicable to observing roundups or care and handling of animals in the custody of the government currently stockpiled in holding facilities. The BLM also admitted that roundups are an ongoing process that do not end when one removal operation ends.
Those testifying on behalf of the Plaintiff proved that access was historically allowed, arbitrary, and based more on public opinion. The team that offered testimony to the court included: author Terri Farley, Humane Observer Elyse Gardner, Advocate Sally Summers, and biologist Bob Bauer. Leigh stated after the two day hearing that the team presented a record that was “one of the most memorable moments” in her tenure of advocating for wild horses.
The case had been remanded back to district court as testimony was restricted in the first hearings with specific instructions.
“The record speaks for itself,” stated Laura Leigh “this is a solid case that directly relates to restrictions that are meant to hide actions. Observing a wild horse roundup, or going to a facility, is not like reporting from a war zone – no military secrets are revealed. The basic question remains: If there is nothing to hide why try so hard to hide it?”
The brief filed today includes excerpts of a record that spans three years of litigation including testimony from two hearings.
“The First Amendment is essential to the Democratic process,” stated attorney Gordon Cowan, “without it Democracy fails. This case represents years of effort and I am proud to continue to represent those that have spoken up for our Constitutional Freedoms.”
The Reporters Committee for a Free Press and the National Press Photographers Association are expected to join through Amici next week. Both of these organizations filed briefs in this case previously.
A hearing date should be set for late this year.
~~~ Wild Horse Education carries various active federal cases to protect wild horses from abuse, slaughter and extinction…. and the public’s right to know. Please consider supporting our efforts.