Following the 2016 Celebration, APHIS filed 188 cases against participants whose horses VMO’s had failed during inspections at the Celebration. This extraordinary action called for the industry to seek a legal response from challenging these administrative proceedings. The Celebration, SHOW Inc., FAST and several individual contributors, requested the attorneys who had filed successful lawsuits in Contender I and II to assist in examining a strategy to challenge what the industry considered a disproportionate attack on the industry. After fully considering multiple approaches, it was decided to challenge the legal authority of the USDA’s ALJs (Administrative Law Judges) and Judicial Officers to adjudicate HPA cases. 

Initially, the attorney filed a brief in the District of Columbia Court of Appeals supporting a challenge to the authority of the SEC’s administrative law judges. That case, Lucia v. SEC, claimed SEC ALJs were not appointed as required by the U.S. Constitution, and pointed out to the court that this was also the case with USDA ALJs. Ultimately, the court split five to five in that case resulting in a decision rejecting our position.

The Lucia decision was then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear and decide the issue. Our attorney filed a comprehensive brief contending that ALJs are not lawfully appointed. While the case was pending, the USDA suspended all activity in the many pending HPA cases to await the Court’s decision. On June 21, 2018, the Supreme Court decided that the SEC’s ALJs functioned as inferior officers of the United States who had not been constitutionally appointed. 

Our attorney is also assisting in five appeals cases involving HPA decisions by an ALJ and the Judicial Officer whereby the standing of the cases is suitable to challenge the constitutionality of ALJs and JO’s deciding HPA cases.  Therefore, the D.C. Circuit will have to decide in the near future whether USDA ALJs are lawfully appointed. The court will be bound by the Supreme Court’s decision in Lucia. There are other issues in those cases, including whether USDA ALJs and the Judicial Officer violated due process in their decisions, whether §1825(c) disqualification penalties can be assessed in a proceeding where the respondent has not previously been found to have violated the HPA, and whether the Judicial Officer is unconstitutionally appointed. 
The effort in supporting the Lucia petitioner in the D.C. Circuit and Supreme Court has been successful and should serve as a catalyst to require significant changes in adjudicative proceedings seeking to enforce the HPA. We will work to make sure these changes are ones that lead to fair proceedings conducted in accordance with law. 

In addition to this important initiative, FAST has revived its horse show development program and has begun accepting grant applications via its website to support new shows or revive ones that have been lost in the past several years.  

FAST has also recently announced funding availability to an organization who wishes to hold a Tennessee Walking Horse Educational event for youth.  Requests for funding may also be applied for via the FAST website.

Lastly, FAST will again hold its 50-50 fundraiser at the Celebration to raise funds to support educational and marketing initiatives for the TWH industry.  

FAST remains committed to preserving, protecting and advancing all disciplines of the Tennessee Walking Horse and extends its gratitude and appreciation to all of those industry supporters who have donated time and resources to advancing our mission!

Dr. Kasey C. Kesselring, President