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Cloning registration looms; AQHA promises to fight on

equine-disease-quarterlyThe American Quarter Horse Association is promising to continue its fight to uphold its ban on clones as a judge in Texas prepares to issue an order requiring the 260,000-member body to accept their registration.

US District Judge Mary Lou Robinson has indicated she is ready to make the ruling, but is seeking input from counsel on the proposed final judgment and findings of fact in the case, which was heard before a jury late last month.

“AQHA will continue to take any and all necessary legal action in seeking to have the verdict of the jury and any judgment entered by the court in favor of plaintiffs reversed,” AQHA executive vice-president Don Treadway said.

“AQHA will continue to fight for its members’ rights.”

The jury found that the AQHA’s ban on registering clones violated state and federal antitrust laws.

The case is being monitored by many horse-breed associations, which have similar bans in place on the registration of clones.

Rancher Jason Abraham and veterinarian Gregg Veneklasen took the AQHA to court seeking the repeal of Rule REG106.1 to allow cloned quarter horses and their offspring to be registered, thus enabling them to compete.

Abraham and Veneklasen, who have about 20 cloned quarter horses and their offspring, filed the action through related companies in April last year in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Amarillo.

A 10-person jury ruled in favor of Abraham and Veneklasen, but awarded no damages. The plaintiffs had sought $US2 million to $US5 million in damages

The parties appeared for a two-hour hearing before Judge Robinson on Monday to discuss the plaintiffs’ claims for attorney fees and their pursuit of an injunction requiring AQHA to register clones and their offspring.

Abraham and Veneklasen have requested an award of nearly $US900,000 in attorney fees.

At the end of the hearing, Judge Robinson said she was going to enter an injunction requiring registration of clones and their offspring.

She instructed the parties to confer and determine if any agreements were needed over required rules, and instructed the parties to file any briefs on the subject no later than August 14.

The judge has yet to rule on attorneys’ fees. She instructed Abraham and Veneklasen to produce all attorney fee billing statements by the end of the day and ordered that the AQHA enter any response on the issue by August 14, 2013.

Finally, the judge ordered the plaintiffs to submit proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law by the August 14 deadline.

It is expected that following the entry of a judgment in favor of Abraham and Veneklasen, the association will proceed with filing a motion requesting the court to enter a judgment in favor of the AQHA based on the assertion that the jury’s verdict was not supported by the evidence entered at trial.

Such a motion is due no later than 28 days after the entry of a signed final judgment by the court.

Should the court not grant the association’s motion, then the association will file a notice of appeal.

In arguing on Monday to effectively have the jury’s verdict overturned, the AQHA argued the plaintiffs failed to establish the existence of a conspiracy to prohibit registration of clones and their offspring; failed to establish the existence of a properly defined antitrust market consisting of “elite” quarter horses; failed to establish that the rule in question had caused any harm to the alleged market through a constraint on the supply of elite quarter horses; and failed to establish that the rule constituted an unreasonable restraint on trade.

Counsel further argued that the plaintiffs had failed to establish that AQHA possessed monopoly power in the market.

The AQHA’s counsel urged the court to deny the plaintiffs’ request for attorneys’ fees, arguing that they had not produced legally sufficient evidence at trial to establish an antitrust violation. They noted that the jury awarded no damages to the plaintiffs. Therefore, should the court decide to award attorneys’ fees, then such an award should be significantly reduced in keeping with the jury’s award of no damages.

 

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