Judge Orders Gulf Coast vs. HISA Case Transferred To Same Division As NHBPA Suit

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An Amarillo Division federal judge in Texas on Thursday ordered the most recently filed lawsuit out of four active nationwide cases all trying to overturn the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) to be transferred to the Lubbock Division that is currently handling the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (NHBPA)'s similar and recently remanded complaint.

The Apr. 6 order by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk (Northern District of Texas, Amarillo Division) comes more than eight months after the litigation was initiated on July 29, 2022, and just one day after the plaintiffs in the Amarillo case asked for a temporary restraining order and motion for preliminary injunction to halt the enforcement of HISA.

The plaintiffs in the case are Global Gaming LSP, a limited liability company that owns Lone Star Park; Gulf Coast Racing LLC, the owner of a greyhound track that no longer conducts live racing in Nueces County, and both LRP Group Ltd. and Valle De Los Tesoros, which are two limited partnerships separately looking to operate new horse tracks in south Texas.

The defendants are the HISA Authority and the Federal Trade Commission.

“Here, Plaintiffs have asked for extraordinary relief in asking for a TRO and a preliminary injunction,” the judge wrote. “Aside from the merits, at issue in the TRO is whether [the] NHBPA [case's 30-day injunction out of the Lubbock Division] remains binding on Defendants.”

The judge outlined the chronology of the two cases that led to his decision.

“In November 2022 the Fifth Circuit held that HISA violated the private nondelegation doctrine [in the NHBPA appeal]. On Dec. 23, 2022, Congress enacted legislation amending the operative language of HISA to purportedly cure the constitutional defect. The amendment was signed into law by President Biden on Dec. 29. Defendants then filed a motion to vacate the Fifth Circuit panel opinion and a petition for panel rehearing. On Jan. 31, 2023, the Fifth Circuit denied Defendants' motions and remanded the case to the Lubbock Division.”

The judge continued: “Because the Fifth Circuit remanded that case back to Lubbock, the Lubbock Division is in the best position to answer these questions. The issues raised by this case and the Lubbock Action substantially overlap. Both cases involve plaintiffs representing the horseracing industry. Both cases involve the same defendants. Both challenge the constitutionality of HISA. The proof adduced to resolve these claims will likely be identical. And the plaintiffs in both cases share the same ultimate objective.

“The Lubbock Action was filed more than a year before this case was filed and the Lubbock Division is much more familiar with the applicable law,” the judge's order continued. “Thus, the principles that underlie the first-to-file rule justify transferring this case to the Lubbock Division.

Quoting from precedents, the judge stated the legal basis for transferring the case.

“Under the first-to-file rule, when related cases are pending before two federal courts, the court in which the case was last filed may refuse to hear it if the issues raised by the cases substantially overlap. The rule rests on principles of comity and sound judicial administration. The concern manifestly is to avoid the waste of duplication, to avoid rulings which may trench upon the authority of sister courts, and to avoid piecemeal resolution of issues that call for a uniform result.”

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