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AG Derek Schmidt: Federal appeals court strikes down Kansas agricultural trespass law, further appeal possible

Release Date: Aug 20, 2021

TOPEKA – (August 20, 2021) – A federal appeals court yesterday found a Kansas statute that protects agricultural property rights unconstitutional, affirming a lower court’s decision.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit held that a Kansas statute providing for enhanced criminal penalties when a person obtains access to an animal facility by deception and with intent to cause harm violates the First Amendment rights of such trespassers. Earlier this month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit upheld a similar Iowa law, creating a split of opinions among federal appeals courts.

“Kansas enacted this law to add an additional layer of protection regarding unauthorized access to agricultural facilities, and to help improve security measures against those who seek to disrupt the food supply,” Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said. “Animal agriculture is vitally important to our state's economic well-being. We are carefully reviewing the court’s disappointing decision and will determine next steps in the weeks ahead.”

The decision striking down the Kansas statute was 2-1. The dissenting judge would have upheld the statute and concluded it does not violate the First Amendment.

The case is Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Kelly. A copy of the 10th Circuit opinion is available at https://bit.ly/3iWTp9k.  

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