District Court Rules Indiana Claiming Jail Rule Unconstitutional

by | 09.21.2017 | 6:42pm

Owner Jerry Jamgotchian won a victory in his battle against “claiming jail” rules with a ruling earlier this week by U.S. District Court Judge William T. Lawrence finding Indiana's rule unconstitutional.

Claiming jail rules place restrictions on newly-claimed horses, preventing them from running out of state or different in-state tracks for a set period — 60 days in Indiana — after the claim. Jamgotchian's argument in the Indiana case, and similar suits in Kentucky, California, and Pennsylvania, has been such regulations violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.  He lost a case in Kentucky that was appealed and upheld by the state's Supreme Court. California dropped its “claiming jail” rule after being sued but is now in the process of instituting a new rule.

The ruling in Indiana centered around Jamgotchian's claiming two horses in August 2016 at Indiana Grand, and a subsequent request to run them outside the state in non-stakes contests.

Lawrence sided with Jamgotchian, stating that Indiana officials “have not shown that Section 4(h) (the claiming jail regulation) advances a legitimate local purpose that cannot be adequately served by reasonable nondiscriminatory alternatives. Rather, they evince the type of economic protectionism that the dormant Commerce Clause is designed to prevent. Accordingly, they have not met their burden and the Court finds that Section 4(h) contravenes the dormant Commerce Clause.”

Jerry Jamgotchian

In a statement, Jamgotchian said: “Finally, after many years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, VICTORY for every horse owner in America has finally been achieved. The U.S. District Court in Indiana has just struck down the illegal 'claiming jail rule' and all owners and trainers are now free to take and race their horses anywhere they want without fear of license suspension, fine or penalty. This landmark ruling will make horseracing much more owner friendly and puts every state on legal notice that Commerce Clause Violations will no longer be tolerated.

“It's time for the tracks and racing commissions to stop controlling our horses and this important ruling now sends them a clear message to follow the Commerce Clause and not impose discriminatory restrictions on commence. Economic Protectionism will not be tolerated by horse owners any longer and aggressive litigation will be commenced against any state and racing commission who ignore this District Court ruling.”

Read the U.S. District Court Order

Read more at The Blood-Horse

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