Judge Cooper held a hearing today regarding the motion for injunctive relief filed by USARK FL and our plaintiffs. This hearing only concerned our request for an injunction. This means no ruling was made on the merits of our case and that hearing will be held later.
The hearing was scheduled to last only two hours as Judge Cooper graciously made time to hear this before the enforcement date of July 29, 2021, even though he already had a packed caseload and schedule. It did last beyond that time, beginning at 9:30 and not ending until nearly 2:30 (inclusive of 70 minutes of break time).
For a longer hearing, we would have been required to wait until well after the July 29 date which makes winning an injunction nearly impossible. Meeting the bar to receive injunctive relief is high enough when heard before any enforcement date, and many argue that winning an injunction requires a higher bar than winning a case on the merits.
USARK FL and the plaintiffs were awarded injunctive relief but with a limited scope. While we argued for all of our members and responsible stakeholders, Judge Cooper awarded injunctive relief to the listed plaintiffs that hold permits (Class III and/or Conditional Species Permits) that expire after the enforcement date. Essentially, named plaintiffs will have until the expiration of their licenses before FWC can enforce the new rules.
Please understand that USARK FL will always fight for all responsible herpetoculturists. We do not dictate how any court or judge may rule. This is how Judge Cooper ruled. We should have the filing explaining the terms of the injunction next week. Judge Cooper did make his oral ruling from the bench but we still must wait for the formal document.
We appreciate everyone who has supported us and made this fight possible. USARK FL and Florida herpetoculture absolutely could not have better attorneys working on this case than our team from Holland & Knight. It seems this fight with FWC may just be the beginning as we already know that FWC is preparing to list and either heavily regulate or prohibit more reptile species. We cannot overstate the crucial importance of USARK FL as an organized industry advocacy group moving forward. Without an organized front, the entirety of herpetoculture would be eliminated from Florida very soon.