HBPA Rips HISA's Request for 'Emergency' Court Action

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The National Horsemen's  Benevolent and Protective Association (NHBPA) and 12 of its affiliates have filed a legal challenge to a Jan. 3 “emergency” motion made by the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) Authority that had asked for the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate its recent HISA unconstitutionality order.

In essence, the horsemen's opposition to the request for emergency treatment stated that no pressing need or harm exists to speed up what would usually be a full 10 days for the NHBPA and other co-plaintiffs from the underlying lawsuit to respond to the motion to vacate the unconstitutionality order.

In the spring of 2022, the Fifth Circuit court had taken this case on appeal from a Mar. 31, 2022, ruling out of U.S. District Court (Northern District of Texas) that affirmed HISA's constitutionality by stating “the law as constructed stays within current constitutional limitations as defined by the Supreme Court…”

Then on Nov 18, a Fifth Circuit panel overturned the lower court's decision by ruling that HISA was indeed unconstitutional because it “delegates unsupervised government power to a private entity,” and thus “violates the private non-delegation doctrine.”

But on Dec. 29, President Biden signed into law a massive, year-end spending bill that included a small bit of language inserted by HISA supporters in Congress that amended the operative language of HISA to fix the constitutional defect the Fifth Circuit had identified.

The passage of that law prompted the HISA Authority's Jan. 3 motion asking the Fifth Circuit to “vacate its opinion and the judgment of the Court forthwith to prevent the serious harms that mount each day [and to] rehear this case in light of the intervening congressional amendment.”

Later on Tuesday (beyond TDN's deadline for this original story), the NHBPA filed its objection to the “emergency” nature of the motion.

“[T]he Authority Appellees come to this Court–on the very last day of their unusually long window to petition for rehearing–and demand that it reverse its prior decision, vacate its opinion, and issue a new opinion and the mandate 'forthwith,' namely, by Jan. 13, 2023. No crisis or irreparable harm justifies this accelerated treatment or a rushed briefing schedule that shortens Appellants' time to respond to the motion.

“The Authority Appellees have had since at least Dec. 5, 2022, to formulate their legal strategy (that being the first day the potential amendment was publicly reported in the news; it is possible the Authority knew much earlier). They have had since at least Dec. 20, 2022, when the omnibus language was first made public, to work on drafting the particulars of their motion (again, they may have seen it before it was made public, or even had a hand in writing the amendment's language).”

At a later point, the NHBPA filing continued: “[T]his is not a motion that can be dealt with in a quick two or three pages, like a motion for an extension of time to file a brief or hold a case in abeyance. This is a motion that seeks to vacate a published opinion of this Court. Such an important motion, in such an important case no less, deserves the full time authorized for a thoughtful, thorough response.

“Appellees point to no crisis or irreparable harm that justifies shortening the normal schedule. … Appellees do not even try to show 'irreparable harm,' even though this Circuit's rule for emergency motions requires that the motion 'state the nature of the emergency and the irreparable harm the movant will suffer if the motion is not granted.'

“If anything, this entire episode once again prompts the question Appellants have been asking all along: Who is really driving the train here, the Authority or the [Federal Trade] Commission? It is the Authority, not the Commission, that…is now filing the motion to vacate and the petition for rehearing. It is the Authority, not the Commission, asking this Court to take a decision that was briefed, argued, and decided over the course of months and toss it all aside in 10 days.”

The NHBPA's filing summed up: “The entire narrative only confirms that the Commission lacks any independent policy interest in the Act's administration or survival; it sees itself as humble minister of everyone else's will.”

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