The Iowa Civil Liberties Union is celebrating an Iowa Supreme Court decision involving lawsuits against the owners of large livestock confinement operations. Ben Stone is the executive director of the I-C-L-U. He says the legislature passed a law in 1998 that says people can’t sue large livestock operations. The Supreme Court, in a case that’s been going on for six years, yesterday ruled that 1998 state law is unconstitutional and violates the “Inalienable rights” clause of the constitution. Stone says the ruling confirms all the effort they put into the case.He says they’re very thankful their long effort has paid off. Stone says the ruling will change the political and legal landscape in the state.He says there haven’t been any lawsuits in the six years this suit has been going on. He says people were afraid because the statute said if you sued and lost, you had to pay the legal bills of the livestock companies, and Stone says that scared and thwarted people. Stone expects the legal action to pick up. He says it will certainly make it more likely that the neighbors of these hog confinements will go to court when they can show that their use and enjoyment of their private property is being destroyed by these hog confinements. Stone says the Supreme Court decision may make livestock owners change their operations to prevent such lawsuits.He says they’re really hoping this can also create “responsible corporate operations” that will be run in a way that’s more consistent with the environment and respectful of their neighbors. The lawsuit was brought by Joseph and Linda Gacke who live in Sioux County. A lawyer for the Iowa Pork Producers Association calls the Iowa Supreme Court decision a mixed result, both for individuals involved and for other farmers. Attorney Eldon McAfee also represents the Pork Xtra company involved in the suit. McAffee says the ruling does not automatically cover every suit.He says the court found in this particular case that it would be “unduly oppressive” to the neighbors if the law were upheld and therefore the justices found it unconstitutional. McAfee says that means the ruling might not apply in other cases. McAfee says the ruling also gave Pork Xtra a new trial in district court because of evidence used in the case. McAffee says this ruling will impact what other producers do with their operations. His advice to producers is to adopt generally accepted management practices and comply with all state laws. McAfee says they should also adopt management practices that minimize the impact on neighbors because it might keep neighbors from filing a lawsuit, and it might also help with their defense if a suit is filed.
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