By T. D. Thornton
The Texas judge handling the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (NHBPA) constitutionality lawsuit that is trying to halt the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) on Wednesday refused to grant an injunction that would delay the May 22 implementation of the Anti-Doping and Medication Control (ADMC) program.
In issuing his order, United States District Court Judge James Wesley Hendrix of the Northern District of Texas (Lubbock Division) pointed out that it is the second time in two weeks that he has informed the plaintiffs in a court order that they have not established a likelihood of success on the merits of their case.
The judge also stated in the May 17 order that the horsemen “misunderstand” the legal standards that apply to the granting of an injunction in this particular instance.
“The Court denies the motion for an injunction pending appeal,” Hendrix wrote. “As detailed in its 55-page Memorandum Opinion and Order [issued May 4], the plaintiffs have not established a likelihood of success on the merits. And even if their proposed standard applied, they have not made a substantial case on the merits given the congressional amendment in response to the Fifth Circuit's opinion…
“Because the plaintiffs have not established a right to an injunction pending appeal under either the correct standard or their preferred standard, the Court denies the motion,” Hendrix wrote.
“The plaintiffs misunderstand the correct standard for a district court considering a motion for injunction pending appeal,” Hendrix continued, adding at a later point, “The 'substantial case on the merits' standard does not apply to injunctions pending appeal.”
The planned appeal to the Fifth Circuit is the latest wrinkle in a lawsuit that has lingered in the courts for over two years.
On Mar. 15, 2021, the NHBPA and 12 of its affiliates sued personnel from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the HISA Authority, seeking to keep HISA from being implemented. Judge Hendrix dismissed that suit on Mar. 31, 2022.
The NHBPA plaintiffs appealed, leading to a Fifth Circuit Court reversal on Nov. 18, 2022 that remanded the case back to Hendrix's court. In the interim, an amended version of HISA got signed into law on Dec. 29, 2022. That fix was designed to make HISA compliant with the constitutional defects the Fifth Circuit had identified.
On May 4, 2023, Hendrix validated the newer version of HISA as constitutional. One day later, the NHBPA informed him it is planning another appeal back to the Fifth Circuit, and it wanted the ADMC's rollout stopped while that process played out.
On May 8, Hendrix wrote that, “The Court previously denied injunctive relief, but the plaintiffs again request an injunction, arguing that they will be injured by the ADMC rule during the pendency of an expected appeal.”
Nine days later, on May 17, Hendrix handed down his decision denying that motion, noting that “the Court is not persuaded by these passing references to [cases that the NHBPA cited as precedents], especially when the plaintiffs have not identified any case in which a district court granted an injunction pending appeal after denying a motion for preliminary injunction (much less following a consolidated bench trial).”