Federal Judge Says No To Latest HISA Injunction Attempt

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The most recent of five separate legal attempts within the past two years to derail the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) via alleged constitutionality claims hit a roadblock Tuesday when a federal judge in Arkansas denied a motion for a preliminary injunction that sought to halt HISA's oversight and its Anti-Doping and Medication Control (ADMC) program.

The plaintiffs, led by Bill Walmsley, president of the Arkansas Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA), and Jon Moss, the executive director of the Iowa HBPA, had asked a judge in United States District Court (Eastern District of Arkansas, Northern Division) on Apr. 6 to declare HISA unlawful.

The defendants in the case, who are executives with the HISA Authority and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), had argued in court filings back on May 15 that no injunction was necessary.

“The balance of harms and the public interest also weigh heavily against disrupting a federal regulatory scheme that Congress has mandated (twice) and that has enjoyed substantial compliance already,” the HISA Authority's filing stated. “This Court should deny Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction.”

The HISA Authority's opposition brief also stated that the plaintiffs in this case, much like those in the other four cases recently decided or under appeal in the federal court system, represent only “a faction of the industry long opposed to any change” who continue to “search for a favorable forum” by essentially making similar arguments in front of different judges.

Both Walmsley and Moss are already involved as parties who have taken various legal actions in three of the other four anti-HISA cases.

The HBPA-affiliated plaintiffs wrote in their complaint back in April that HISA “barely pretends to comply with the Constitution's separation of powers. The Act allows a private corporation to issue binding rules with no guiding principle. The FTC's ostensible oversight serves as a mere mirage.”

Judge James Moody Jr.'s decision on July 11 to deny the motion was made during a court hearing on the injunction. He did not articulate in writing his reasons for the denial. Instead, he simply stated in a docket entry, “After argument from counsel, the Court DENIES Plaintiffs' MOTION for Preliminary Injunction, for the reasons stated on the record.”

The lawsuit itself is separate from the shot-down injunction motion, so the overall case remains active.

At the time of the lawsuit's filing more than two months ago, the ADMC program was not yet in effect, but it has since been rolled out as of May 22.

In the seven weeks since the ADMC program has been operational, TDN has reported on problematic aspects of HISA's new method of drug enforcement. Among the issues have been how provisional suspensions are handled and rules on intra-articular joint injections.

TDN just this week began publishing a routinely updated Q&A page related to HISA and its rules that will attempt to supply answers to common questions as new issues crop up.

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