Editor’s Note: The Walking Horse Report received the following letter from William Reinhart relative to his case that was reported on two weeks ago in The Report.

Dear Editor:
You have correctly reported that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed my appeal on grounds of jurisdiction. The Horse Protection Act provides that you have 30 days from the date of the final order to file an appeal. The Judicial Officer in my case signed the final order on January 23, 2001. Thirteen days later I received erroneous material in the mail from the USDA relating to a completely different case. I called the hearing clerk for the USDA and advised her of the mistake and asked her about the status of my case. The clerk said there was no information available on my case. Ten days later - now an elapsed time of twenty-three days - the USDA clerk finally mailed by certified mail the correct order on my case which I did not receive until February 26 - a total elapsed time of thirty-four days. Consequently, my appeal was filed beyond the 30-day limit. The USDA admits all of these facts to the court.

Despite all of this, the Court of Appeals has ruled that I was supposed to check the docket and not depend on service from the USDA. The problem is that the USDA does not maintain a docket on cases before them nor publish in any form, a docket of cases. Therefore, the Court has placed on me an obligation which is impossible to comply with and places no responsibility on the USDA for their obvious foul-up. The rules of appellate procedure say that the clerk must immediately give notice when an order is entered.

The Court has cited several cases on the question which I believe are not relevant to the present case. All else the Court says in its order is dicta which has no effect on my case because they did not accept jurisdiction.

Adjudication through the courts is a tedious process which takes an enormous amount of time. The Court of Appeals even indicated that my remedy on the question of jurisdiction may lie with the U.S. Supreme Court. Despite all this, the court system is still the best mechanism to identify problems in our governmental system. After all, courts only interpret the intent of Congress through statutes they pass. There are at least two major questions that have come to light so far in my case that we should be asking our congressional delegation from Tennessee.

First, whether this is what they intended on the question of jurisdiction given the above facts. Congress, in passing the law, should have made the time of appeal to run from the date the order was received and not when it was signed.

The second question we should ask our congressional delegation is whether they intended for the Horse Protection Act to apply in our federal circuit which includes Tennessee and not in the 5th Circuit where that court has ruled twice that soreness detected through palpation of a horse’s feet is not substantial evidence to support a finding of soreness under the Horse Protection Act.

Stay tuned for the next episode of Federal Appeals Law 102.

Very Truly,
William J. Reinhart