The Texas-based lawsuit over the FDA’s regulation of premium cigars will not be in Texas any longer.
Yesterday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Kimberly Priest Johnson reversed her earlier ruling and granted the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) motion to transfer the Texas case to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Priest Johnson’s decision to reverse her earlier ruling seems directly related to a recent appeal filed in the D.C. lawsuit.
“The record in Cigar Association reveals that the plaintiffs have since filed an appeal of the final judgment in favor of the defendants on Counts VI and VII (see Dkt. 102), and have also filed a motion to stay or motion for injunction pending appeal or resolution of Count V (see Dkt. 95),” writes Priest Johnson. “That motion appears to be fully briefed and ripe for decision before the court. Thus, the crux of the present lawsuit—the FDA’s failure to treat premium cigars differently from other cigars and to exempt premium cigars from the warnings requirement—is squarely before the court in Cigar Association.”
Attorneys for FDA had requested the lawsuit in Texas be moved and combined with D.C. The Texas lawsuit was filed by En Fuego, a Dallas area cigar shop, El Cubano Cigars of League City and the Texas Cigar Merchants Association. FDA had argued that all three parties were at times members of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR), the issues at stake in the lawsuit overlapped and that the attorneys themselves were the same in both cases.
Priest Johnson ruled against FDA’s motion and last week the two sides presented oral arguments before her in a courtroom in Plano, Texas. Yesterday was a deadline for briefings on how a recent Supreme Court case would affect the Texas lawsuit, though Priest Johnson also issued her new order.
That new order is not a win for the cigar industry.
Arguing the lawsuit in two different courts allowed for two opportunities for the cigar industry to get potential relief from FDA regulations. In mid-May, the D.C. court ruled against a motion from the plaintiffs in that case, which include the aforementioned IPCPR, as well as the Cigar Association of America (CAA) and Cigar Rights of America (CRA). Just as that ruling was coming down, Priest Johnson appeared to be showing signs of at least a temporary positive outcome for the cigar industry in the Texas lawsuit.
Now those cases are one, albeit, likely not confined to just one courtroom.
A motion has been filed in Cigar Industry that begins the process of taking the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
For the moment, all eyes turn to the Aug. 10 deadline for when warning label requirements are set to go into effect. Both the D.C. and Texas courts made it clear they were aware of the deadline and were pushing to make a ruling on potential injunctions or stays before that date.