HISA put on hold in Louisiana, West Virginia

Columbus, OH — On Tuesday (July 26), a federal judge in the Western District of Louisiana issued a preliminary injunction against the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA), granting a motion brought by the State of West Virginia, Louisiana State Racing Commission, the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association, the Jockeys Guild Inc., and the West Virginia Racing Commission.

Judge Terry A. Doughty ruled to the prohibit implementation of a series of HISA rules in Louisiana and West Virginia only. The opinion and order can be found here.

The United States Trotting Association (USTA) has long opposed HISA and is party to a separate action challenging HISA’s constitutionality. President Russell Williams offered the following comments and analysis:

A preliminary injunction, one of the most rarely-exercised forms of judicial power known to the law, has been entered in State of Louisiana v. HISA. This case is separate from other challenges to HISA, having been filed on June 29, 2022. It is the first case to challenge the lawfulness of rulemaking by the HISA Authority and the FTC. Although the USTA is not a plaintiff in the June 29 case, the legal issues tie directly to those in our case, which is now on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

To obtain a preliminary injunction, a party must clear a set of standard legal hurdles, one of which is showing a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits. It is a serious matter to ask a court to halt the operation of a federal law while a case goes forward, but that is what happened here, and the court granted the injunctive relief requested.

The State of Louisiana and the other plaintiffs successfully showed that the HISA Authority ignored the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by choosing a 14-day comment period when the APA provides for at least 30 days. Moreover, the court was satisfied that plaintiffs could show that the HISA Authority unlawfully enlarged its own jurisdiction by expanding the definition of covered horses beyond the terms of the HISA statute. The plaintiffs also made the required showing that the HISA Authority exceeded its statutory access to covered persons’ books, records, and personal property by also undertaking to seize those items. Finally, the court accepted plaintiffs’ showing that the HISA Authority unlawfully expanded its own statutory power to collect fees from racing constituents.

These points that the district court relied on to grant the injunction are all matters that the States of Oklahoma, Louisiana, and West Virginia are challenging in the USTA lawsuit. First of all, who can protect us from unlawful actions by the HISA Authority, a private organization that is accountable to no one but itself? Obviously not the Federal Trade Commission, which stood helplessly by while the HISA Authority violated federal law, unlawfully expanded its own jurisdiction, and ignored the dictates of the statute that created the Authority in the first place.

This case establishes that HISA imperils racing — Thoroughbred racing at present, but harness racing inevitably. Today’s decision enjoins the HISA Authority only in Louisiana and West Virginia, but the horse industry should work to extend injunctive relief to all the racing states.

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