The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is appealing a court decision that denied the agency’s request to combine two lawsuits files over cigar regulations into a single case.
Last month, Magistrate Judge Kimberly C. Priest Johnson ruled that a Texas lawsuit filed by En Fuego, a Dallas-area retailer; El Cubano Cigars, a League City-based manufacturer and retailer; and the Texas Cigar Merchants Association (TXCMA) would stay in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. Attorneys for FDA had requested the Texas lawsuit be moved to and combined with a D.C. case filed by the Cigar Association of America (CAA), Cigar Rights of America (CRA) and International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers’ Association (IPCPR).
The week before Priest Johnson’s order FDA won a crucial ruling denying much of the claims brought on by the three cigar trade groups.
Earlier this week, attorneys for FDA filed an appeal citing three specific claims.
First, FDA argues that Priest Johnson “gave ‘little, if any, weight'” to its argument that the attorneys and parties for both sets fo defendants overlap. FDA has argued that because En Fuego and El Cubano had been members of IPCPR and the TXCMA is an official state organization for IPCPR—as well as the parties having similar attornies—the lawsuits should be combined.
Second, FDA argues that Priest Johnson incorrectly evaluated the opinion by the Washington D.C. judge presiding over the trade groups’ case. She specifically the opinion made by U.S. District Court Judge Amit P. Mehta as a reason for why the Texas case isn’t similar enough. In short, Mehta argued that while he agreed that the process might have been unfair, the legal questions raised in his courtroom didn’t allow to rule in favor of the trade groups. Priest Johnson thought that the Texas case dealt with some of the questions that were not argued in D.C.
Finally, Priest Johnson wrote that only one of the four issues raised in the Texas case were similar to the D.C. court case, something FDA disagrees with.
The Texas case is set to begin oral arguments on June 26.