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The Oklahoman

Cockfight case merger considered

TAHLEQUAH - The state attorney general’s office is trying to determine the best approach for consolidating the legal attacks on Oklahoma’s month-old cockfighting laws, a staff member said Monday.

A district judge in Tahlequah helped a little when he combined two cases for a hearing Monday. But that still leaves the state with five cases continuing before five judges who have blocked enforcement of cockfighting laws in 15 counties.

“I can’t tell you the procedure we think is going to be the most efficient, but consolidation is definitely in our plans,” said Sherry Todd, an assistant attorney general. “There are several vehicles we could use and the judge today even threw out some ideas.

“There’s more than one way to approach it. We’re trying to decide the most judicially economic. Of course the final decision will be made by the attorney general.”

District Judge Bruce Sewell continued a hearing Monday for a temporary restraining order for Cherokee, Wagoner and Muskogee counties. Sewell originally was scheduled to hold a hearing on a temporary injunction for Muskogee County on Dec. 18, but he merged that county with Cherokee and Wagoner counties, for which formal temporary restraining orders apparently have not been issued.

Defendants in the 15 counties are the state, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, district attorneys and county sheriffs. Todd was at the hearing representing only OSBI, which has been named as a defendant in all five cases.

Todd filed a motion to release the OSBI from the suit and Sewell set a Dec. 23 deadline for the plaintiffs to respond. Sewell also expects filings in January and set a Feb. 3 teleconference for a status report and to decide if he should schedule a hearing on the merits of the case.

The cockfighting laws, approved in the Nov. 5 general election, say people who conduct cockfights or who breed, raise, sell or transport gamecocks for the purpose of fighting could face up to 10 years in prison or fines of up to $25,000, or both.

Motions filed by Tulsa attorney Larry Oliver in Muskogee, Cherokee and Wagoner and eight other counties contend enforcement of the laws will cause, “immediate and irreparable injury, loss and damage, i.e. incarceration or restraint of freedom, deprivation of property without just compensation, loss of liberty and pursuit of plaintiffs’ chosen means of livelihood.”

Other counties where enforcement is blocked are Sequoyah, Adair, McCurtain, Choctaw, Pushmataha, Carter, Johnston, Marshall, Murray, Love, Atoka and Coal.