Horseback Magazine

First Amendment and Wild Horses Ready For the Ninth Circuit

Laura Leigh, journalist for Horseback Magazine and founder of Wild Horse Education, at Stone Cabin two days after the original Ninth Circuit Ruling

Laura Leigh, journalist for Horseback Magazine and founder of Wild Horse Education, at Stone Cabin two days after the original Ninth Circuit Ruling

(RENO) Yesterday Wild Horse Education Founder and journalist for Horseback Magazine Laura Leigh  filed the last brief in an ongoing saga to defend the public’s “right to know” against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wild horse and burro program as the case heads back to the Ninth Circuit early next month. For three and a half years this case has been up and down the courts attempting to regain the type of access that had been given to traps and facilities prior to the severe decline in public opinion of the program following the Calico roundup of 2009/2010.

"Hope Springs Eternal," eight month old colt that died after his feet literally began to fall off after Calico roundup 2010

“Hope Springs Eternal,” eight month old colt that died after his feet literally began to fall off after Calico roundup 2010

“In 2009 I was video tapping while climbing on a processing chute at Palomino Valley Center while horses were vaccinated and freezebranded,” stated Leigh in testimony in the lower court, “after I published pictures of a foal whose feet were falling off after being rounded up all of a sudden my camera presented a safety hazard.”

The Record on this case includes a multitude of briefs filed over the course of three and a half years, two lower court hearings, a Ninth circuit hearing and a landmark Ninth Circuit ruling in Leigh’s favor in 2012. The 2012 ruling included such writings by Judge Milan Smith as, “The free press is the guardian of the public interest, and the independent judiciary is the guardian of the free press.”

The Appeal has been joined by more than fifteen media outlets through Amicus briefs filed with the court. Organizations such as The Reporters Committee for a Free Press, The National Press Photographers Association,  National Public Radio (NPR), The Nevada Press Association and others wrote of the lower courts ruling: “In particular, it afforded too much discretion to the Government to decide whether observing the gathers was safe, without recognizing that journalists routinely – and critically – face far more dangerous situations on a regular basis without official interference or protection.”

“I am hopeful that this case will finally come to a conclusion that protects the basic Constitutional premise that the public has a right to know,” stated Leigh “These are not military secrets or issues of National security. I am trying to tell the story of the wild horse and burro and their hands-on management by the government. It is has been an absurd battle to document what really happens and I pray that I can get on with my work in a meaningful way.”

A hearing is scheduled for December 3rd, 2013.

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links of interest:

Fifteen Press Organizations Join Wild Horse Advocate Against BLM: https://wildhorseeducation.org/2013/09/15/press-organizations-join-wild-horse-journalist-against-blm/

Reflections on the Ninth Circuit case: https://wildhorseeducation.org/roundups/roundups-2012/stone-cabin-2012/

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