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The Oklahoman
Attorney charts campaign to restrain cockfighting law
2002-12-10

The attack on Oklahoma's month-old cockfighting law has spread to 19 counties, and an attorney said Monday that only the holiday season might slow the legal onslaught. Sulphur attorney Scott Colbert has filed requests for temporary restraining orders in McClain and Garvin counties, and said he will hit the road early today to file in four more counties.

"I think we're going to keep on filing," Colbert said. "It's so close to Christmas and so hard to get everything done and moving right now. But there will be some more counties before Christmas with probably the majority coming after."

Colbert said he planned to file motions for temporary restraining orders in Stephens, Jefferson, Cotton and Comanche counties today.

Temporary restraining orders are in effect in 14 counties, and a temporary injunction is in effect for three more. Colbert said he expects to receive a temporary restraining order for Garvin and McClain counties, the first two where orders were not virtually automatic, when he goes before District Judge Candace Blalock on Monday. The orders prevent enforcement of the provisions of State Question 687, the anti-cockfighting proposition voters approved in the Nov. 5 general election. Temporary restraining orders can be given after a motion is filed by just one side of a case, often citing the probability of irreparable harm being done before a full hearing can be held. A temporary injunction hearing usually is held with both sides of a case presenting evidence and testimony concerning the restraining order. A permanent injunction hearing, such as is scheduled for McCurtain, Choctaw and Pushmataha counties Feb. 24, is usually the first time the merits of the case are addressed.

Cockfighting proponents are seeking protection from enforcement until the constitutionality of the law is determined in the courts.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Frank Shurden, D- Henryetta, said he plans to introduce a bill that would make cockfighting legal in the 57 counties that voted against SQ 687 and allow the other 20 counties to call subsequent elections on the law.

He also wants to reduce penalties from felonies to misdemeanors.

The Oklahoma Coalition Against Cockfighting issued a statement saying the group will fight Shurden's attempts to weaken the cockfighting law. "Shurden needs to accept that a solid majority of the people of the state want a ban on the cruel and barbaric practice of cockfighting. He may not be able to keep going to cockfights, but that's just too bad," spokeswoman Janet Halliburton said.

Shurden has a supporter in James Talley, president of the Oklahoma Gamefowl Breeders Association.

"I like the way Mr. Shurden is talking, I can assure you that, but in the meantime we've pretty much got to go ahead and try to keep our people from being arrested. I think eventually we're going to get down to the constitutionality of this law. I think we're going to see changes.

"I can't say I think we're going to win this case, because I don't know that. But if this law sticks it's going to be in litigation a long time," Talley said.

The law makes it a felony to instigate or encourage cockfighting; keep places, equipment or facilities for cockfighting; aid or assist in cockfighting; or own, possess, keep or train birds for cockfighting.

Of the 19 counties where cockfighting proponents have filed suit, only one voted in favor of SQ 687. Wagoner voted 10,072 to 8,081 in favor of making cockfighting illegal.

"We still have a lot of people in that county," Talley said. "These people are some of the largest breeders, and they felt pretty insecure just owning these things (birds)."

Comanche County, which includes Lawton and Fort Sill, is expected to join Wagoner today. Comanche County voters favored SQ 687 with 11,593 in favor to 9,410 against.