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The Oklahoman

Consolidation of cockfighting lawsuits sought

2003-01-14
By John Greiner

The attorney general's office plans to ask the state Supreme Court to consolidate lawsuits attempting to block enforcement of a new anti-cockfighting law, a spokesman said Monday. Sherry Todd, assistant attorney general, said lawsuits against the anti-cockfighting law have been filed in 27 counties.

District judges have issued restraining orders to keep officials from enforcing the law, she said.

Charlie Price, spokesman for Attorney General Drew Edmondson's office, said the application to consolidate the cases will be filed this week.

"We'd like the Supreme Court to decide this issue," Price said.

In November, Oklahoma voters approved State Question 687 to ban cockfighting in Oklahoma. The measure passed 56.2 percent to 43.8 percent.

Cockfighting opponents circulated an initiative petition for a statewide vote to ban it, and the petition was challenged in the Supreme Court.

Proponents battled opponents of the proposal in the Supreme Court for nearly three years before the issue finally cleared the court and was placed on the Nov. 5 general election ballot. Two days after Oklahoma voters approved it, the proposal came under attack again.

State Sen. Frank Shurden, D-Henryetta, said he would introduce legislation to reduce the penalties from felonies to misdemeanors.

SQ 687 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.

Conviction would carry a penalty of one to 10 years in prison and a fine of not less than $2,000 or more than $25,000.

Oklahoma was one of three states allowing cockfighting. The others are Louisiana and New Mexico.

Since the election, lawsuits have been filed in district courts across the state to prevent enforcement of the new anti- cockfighting law.

CONTRIBUTING: Staff writer Mac Bentley