Gov’t to file brief in cockfighting case before US high court

By The Star Staff

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia announced Monday that his administration will be filing a brief with the United States Supreme Court to appear as a “friend of the court” in support of the validity of cockfighting in Puerto Rico and in defense of the industry.

As of press time, the brief had yet to be filed in the case Angel Manuel Ortiz vs United States.

The governor said the brief states that, although Congress has plenary power over the territories, such power is limited by the interstate commerce clause to regulate only those activities that affect national commerce or commerce among states. The interstate commerce clause prevents Congress from trying to regulate purely local industries, such as cockfighting, he said.

The island government argues that the interstate commerce clause was violated and Congress acted in a discriminatory manner under the territories clause when it banned the cockfighting industry.

“The cockfighting industry, which generates jobs and produces economic activity in Puerto Rico, is part of our culture and history,” Pierluisi said. “I will continue to assert the commitment, embodied in our government platform, to fight in all necessary forums in favor of the validity of cockfighting in Puerto Rico.”

Cockfighting has been practiced in Puerto Rico for 400 years and generates an estimated 20,000 jobs.

In the case before the Supreme Court, the petitioners are Ángel Manuel Ortiz-Díaz, Nydia Mercedes Hernández-Gotay, Faustino Rosario Rodríguez, Asociación Cultural and Deportiva del Gallo Fino de Pelea, among others. The respondents are the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the U.S. Department of Justice, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and President Joseph R. Biden.

The First Circuit entered judgment on Jan. 14, upholding the prohibition against cockfighting.

Supporters of the industry argued that one of the ways Puerto Rico has exercised its autonomy and independence is through the legalization and regulation of the sport of cockfighting. Like horse racing in Kentucky, rodeos in Texas, and hunting in Montana, cockfighting is deeply ingrained in the island’s history, tradition and culture, they say.

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