A trial over the constitutionality of a U.S. Department of Agriculture rule change affecting the Tennessee walking horse industry was canceled before it could take place Monday, with both sides to present their evidence over the issue instead.
Last month, the Shelbyville-based SHOW Horse Industry Organization (HIO) filed a lawsuit, asking for a restraining order over new rules which instruct the walking horse industry to oversee enforcement of anti-abuse penalties.
A federal district judge in Texas denied the motion for a temporary restraining order last week and had set a trial in the matter for Monday, but now both sides have agreed that a hearing and trial "is unnecessary in this case."
Instead, a resolution will be reached based on cross-motions for judgment on the evidentiary record, but the two sides disagree what evidence the judge can consider.
U.S. District Judge Terry R. Means ordered the plaintiffs, SHOW Inc., Contender Farms, and Mike McGartland, to file their evidence on Monday, with the defendant in the case, the USDA, to submit "all documents and things that they believe should be considered" today.
Either party may file a motion to exclude all or part of another party's submission by Aug. 7, with the submitting party having 21 days to respond to the motion.
Once Means has ruled on all outstanding motions concerning the scope of the record in this case, both sides will submit a proposed briefing schedule for resolving the merits of SHOW's claims.
The USDA's new rule requires HIOs that license Designated Qualified Persons (DQPs) as inspectors to assess minimum penalties for violations of the Horse Protection Act.
SHOW stated in its lawsuit that private organizations do not possess subpoena power or personnel to judge and prosecute cases of horse abuse, and would withdraw from inspections rather than be exposed to possible lawsuits.
However, government attorneys filed a document last week stating that the HIO/DQP enforcement system is constitutional and the USDA's rule change does not exceed statutory authority nor violate participants' procedural due process rights. The USDA said in June that the new rule would ensure consistent inspections and enforcement at all shows.
Contender Farms and McGartland claimed they would be subject to suspensions under the new rule. But the government memo said harm would only occur if they violated the law by soring their horses.