Federal Judge Grants Preliminary Injunction Against HISA In Louisiana, West Virginia - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Federal Judge Grants Preliminary Injunction Against HISA In Louisiana, West Virginia

A U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana has granted a motion for a preliminary injunction against the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority in its operations in Louisiana and West Virginia.

Judge Terry A. Doughty issued a decision July 26 granting the motion brought by plaintiffs including the state of Louisiana, the Louisiana State Racing Commission, Louisiana HBPA, Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders' Association, Jockeys' Guild, state of West Virginia, and West Virginia Racing Commission among others.

The motion is part of a lawsuit by the plaintiffs which challenges the legality of the Authority's regulatory scope, as they characterize the Authority as a private entity which is housed under the Federal Trade Commission's oversight.

Specifically, Doughty examined claims by the plaintiffs that the 14-day comment period provided for proposed rules was too short per federal standards, and also that several of the HISA rules go “beyond the statutory authority given to HISA and the FTC.” The court took particular interest in the definition of “covered horses” under HISA, the language allowing potential seizure of records associated with people caring for covered horses, and the Authority's cost assessment structure.

The preliminary injunction will only block HISA's administration of racetrack safety rules, enforcement rules, and assessment methodology rules in Louisiana and West Virginia. It does not apply to other states or racetracks. The injunction will be in place while the civil case continues.

HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus released the following statement about the judge's decision:

“Today's ruling from the Western District of Louisiana relates only to the Federal Trade Commission rules, is limited in geographic scope to Louisiana and West Virginia (except with respect to the named plaintiffs), and does not question HISA's constitutionality or validity. The Authority remains focused on implementing the Racetrack Safety program and drafting Anti-Doping and Medication Control rules for implementation in January 2023. Congress enacted HISA to enhance equine and jockey welfare and protect the integrity of this great sport by, for the first time, creating national rules and standards to govern Thoroughbred racing. These measures are backed by research and informed by the expertise of independent and industry representatives.

“The reality is that the majority of racing participants support the Authority's mission to protect those who play by the rules and hold those who fail to do so accountable in order to keep our equine and human athletes safe and the competition fair. The immense collaboration with state racing commissions, stewards, veterinarians, racetracks, trainers, and other horsemen that has taken place to date is evidence of this support, and we intend to continue to fulfill our mandate and work to make the industry safer.”

National HBPA CEO Eric Hamelback's comment on U.S. District Court Judge Doughty issuing a temporary injunction halting enforcement of the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act in Louisiana and West Virginia:

Many will see today as a win or a loss, but rest assured the efforts by the National HBPA and its affiliates are to ensure the best interests of horsemen and women throughout the country are upheld, and not dictated by a select few.

Today's ruling shows the HISA regulations are not in the best interest of Thoroughbred racing's participants and, as Judge Doughty noted, will cause harm to the participants. He further acknowledged the Plaintiffs established that the HISA rules go beyond the statutory authority given to HISA and the Federal Trade Commission. Equally important and gratifying is that Judge Doughty determined that the Plaintiffs established a likelihood of success on the merits for their claims. This rendered opinion is only further proof the framework of HISA must be re-evaluated and not put into effect in its current state.

The members of the National HBPA sincerely thank Louisiana Attorney General Landry, along with the State of West Virginia, Louisiana State Racing Commission, Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association, Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association, Jockeys' Guild Inc., West Virginia Racing Commission, Bernard K. Chatters, Edward J. Fenasci, Larry Findley Sr., Warren J. Harang III and Gerard Melancon. Those entities and individuals proved these regulations have caused harm by rolling them out without proper education, being unclear, inconsistent and violating due process.

While this injunction application is only for the two states, with the Jockeys' Guild mentioned as plaintiffs, this does provide an application outside of Louisiana and West Virginia. I would strongly encourage HISA to evaluate this court's decision and consider a voluntary stand down in every state in order to save further litigation and chaos that most certainly will come from other jurisdictions.

Jockeys' Guild general counsel Kate Swearengen:

The Guild has long been supportive, and will continue to be, of fair and reasonable uniformity in the rules governing horseracing and having a safe racing environment for all participants for the betterment of our industry. However, the rules must be promulgated in the appropriate manner and must take into consideration the realities of the industry and sport of horseracing. Additionally, the rules must be fair and reasonable.  The Guild is pleased that the Court recognized the harm posed by HISA's rules and granted the preliminary injunction.  Should HISA, or any of its designated representatives, attempt to enforce any of the enjoined rules against a Guild member in any state, the Guild intends to take immediate action to ensure compliance with the Court's order.

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