By T. D. Thornton
A federal judge has stayed a 14-month-old lawsuit initiated by the states of Louisiana and West Virginia that is trying to wipe out the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) via alleged constitutional violations, ordering the case to be “administratively terminated” until the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals makes a ruling in a separate suit in which the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) is also alleging HISA is unconstitutional.
However, U.S. District Court (Western District of Louisiana) Chief Judge Terry Doughty wrote in his Sept. 14 ruling that, “This Order shall not be considered a dismissal or disposition of this matter,” and that he was halting the case while the Fifth Circuit decision played out “without prejudice to the right of the parties to reopen the proceedings.”
This means the plaintiffs (the two states are joined by the Louisiana racing commission, the Louisiana HBPA, the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association, West Virginia's racing commission, and five individuals regulated as “covered persons” under HISA) and the defendants (the HISA Authority, the Federal Trade Commission [FTC], plus overseers of both entities) must now await the decision–likely to be issued months from now–that will result from the Fifth Circuit oral arguments scheduled Oct. 4.
In 2 1/2 weeks, the National HBPA and 12 of its affiliates will be trying to prove claims that the 2022 rewrite of the HISA law remains “patently unconstitutional,” and that the Authority overseeing the sport “is basically a private police department” whose sweeping powers equate to “oligarchic tyranny.”
The HISA Authority and the FTC will go into those same arguments backed by a lower court's opinion issued in May that ruled HISA is indeed constitutional, because “Congress cured the unconstitutional aspects of HISA's original approach.”
It's also on the judicial record that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld the constitutionality of HISA back in March.
One day prior to Judge Doughty's ruling, Magistrate Judge David Ayo wrote in a report that recommended staying the Louisiana case that the multiple, overlapping anti-HISA lawsuits currently swirling in the court system are clogging federal dockets.
“After an exhaustive review of the landscape of suits challenging the Act, this Court concludes that [an amended complaint the plaintiffs had filed] is the result of deliberate strategy” that equated to “an abuse of procedure and an impermissible use of judicial resources,” Judge Ayo wrote in his Sept. 13 report.
The original lawsuit in this case was filed June 29, 2022, alleging that HISA violates the Fourth, Seventh and Tenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, plus the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs the process by which federal agencies develop and issue regulations.