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CODY J. WILLIAMS v. UNITED STATES EQUESTRIAN FEDERATION, INC.

No. 04-CV-00161

 United States District Court Eastern District of Kentucky at Lexington

Comes now the Plaintiff, Cody J. Williams, by and through counsel, and for his
Complaint against Defendants United States Equestrian Federation, Inc. and USA Equestrian,
Inc., (herein collectively “Defendants” or “Federation”) states as follows:
THE PARTIES, BACKGROUND AND THE RULES
I. This is an action for declaratory and injunctive relief pursuant to KRS Chapter 418.
2. The Plaintiff is an individual who resides in Florida.
3. The Plaintiff is a professional bloodstock agent, who is commissioned to buy and
sell horses. Plaintiff has earned and continues to earn his livelihood in the equestrian industry.
4. Plaintiff’s occupation requires that he attend certain equestrian events in the
Commonwealth of Kentucky and throughout the United States.
5. Upon information and belief, Defendant United States Equestrian Federation, Inc.
is a New York corporation that is registered to do business in the Commonwealth as organization
number 0572563. The company’s principal place of business is in the City of Lexington, County
of Fayette, Kentucky.
6. Upon information and belief, Defendant USA Equestrian, Inc. is a New York
corporation that it is registered to do business in the Commonwealth as organization number
0461234. The company’s principal place of business is in the City of Lexington, County of
Fayette, Kentucky.
7. Both Defendants are non-profit corporations that purport to govern all aspects of
virtually every equestrian event throughout the United States. Upon information and belief,
effective December I, 2003, Defendant United States Equestrian Federation, Inc. purported to
become the “National Governing Body for Equestrian Sport.”
8. Defendants aim to maintain monopolistic control over the equestrian sport.
9. Defendant USA Equestrian, Inc. is currently a defendant in antitrust litigation
[See JES Properties, Inc. v USA Equestrian, at 2003 U.S. Dist. Lexis 20633 (M.D. Florida)
(overruling motion to dismiss antitrust claims based on the federal Sherman Act as well as
various Florida statutes)].
10. Defendants proudly proclaim their monopolistic philosophy in the History section
of their website [ www.usef.org]:
In 2001 the American Horse Shows Association changed its name
to USA Equestrian, to better designate the member organization it
had become. With more than 80,000 individual members, more
than 2,700 member competitions, and 100 affiliate organizations,
the Federation oversaw 26 breeds and disciplines of competition.
11. Defendants further state:
In 2003 USA Equestrian and the United States Equestrian Team
developed a new organization, a single unified family woven
together from the many parts of equestrian governance and
leadership. [ www .usef.org]
12. Defendants have enacted a comprehensive set of rules to establish and to maintain
their monopolistic control over the equestrian sport (the “Rules”).
13. Rule VII, Chapter I, Article 701 of the Rules purports to govern “any person” that
is a non-member:
CHAPTER I. INDIVIDUALS.
Article 701. General. The provisions of this rule apply in
connection with any Recognized Competition to the following
persons: owner, exhibitor, agent, trainer, manager, rider, driver,
handler, competition official, competition employee (see Art. 113)
and member of the family of the above, Member of Federation or
any person who acts in a manner in violation of the rules of the
Federation or deemed prejudicial to the best interests of the sport
and the Federation. Any act in connection with a Recognized
Competition in violation of the Rules by a member of the family of
a person participating in the competition who is described in the
previous sentence, may be deemed to have been committed by
such person and subject him or her to penalties. (emphasis added)
14. Defendants’ Rules purport to govern “any person” even when they
are present on the premises of public places.
15. Non-members have virtually no corresponding rights under the Rules.
16. Upon information and belief, the Federation owns no real estate upon which
equestrian events are conducted, and the Federation maintains control solely through
enforcement of the Rules from its Kentucky offices.
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
17. This Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to
KRS 23A.OIO and KRS 418.040.
18. Venue is proper in Fayette County pursuant to KRS 452.450 and KRS 418.040.
19. An actual controversy exists pursuant to KRS 418.040.
DEFENDANT FEDERATION PUBLISHES A BLACKLIST AND
ORDERS THE PLAINTIFF TO LEAVE EQUESTRIAN EVENTS
20. On or about January 28, 2004 and February I, 2004, Plaintiff attended an
equestrian event called the Nutrena Wellington Classic in Palm Beach, Florida.
21. Plaintiff attended in the capacity of a person who is a United States citizen and
who desired to attend the event for both personal and professional purposes.
22. The Federation and its agents ordered the Plaintiff to leave this event based on a
BLACKLIST list of allegedly suspended members.
23. The Federation established and maintains this BLACKLIST at its Iron Works
headquarters in Lexington, Kentucky where it also publishes the list on its website which is open
to public view [see www.usef.org/content/competitions/suspensions. php].
24. The BLACKLIST on Defendants’ website begins:
The following persons are under suspension and are not in good
standing until further notice, unless otherwise specified. A
suspended person is forbidden for the time specified in the
sentence to hold or exercise office in the Federation or any
Recognized Competition, from the privilege of taking any part
whatsoever in any Recognized Competition, and is excluded from
all show grounds during Recognized Competitions, as an exhibitor,
participant or spectator. Any horse or horses, completely or in part owned,
leased or of any partnership, corporation or stable of such
person, or shown in any name or for his or her credit or reputation,
whether such interest was held at the time of the alleged violation
or acquired thereafter, are barred from taking any part whatsoever
in any Recognized Competition and are excluded from all show
grounds during Recognized Competitions. Any Recognized
Competition that permits a suspended person and/or his or her
horse to take any part whatsoever in the competition is in violation
of the rules of the Federation and is subject to disciplinary action.
Where applicable, following the name of the suspended party are
shown the start dates, followed by the end dates of the suspension.
Note: The suspension List is updated nightly and can be accessed
on our Website at www .equestrian.org, (choose Licensed
Officials/Suspensions on the menu).
25. Plaintiff is listed on the BLACKLIST.
26. Defendants attempted to eject Plaintiff from the following events: Littlewood
Winter Circuit Finale, Wellington, Florida on or about February 4-8, 2004; and Kilkenny
International, Wellington, Florida, February 11-15, 2004.
27. The Federation’s actions in ordering the Plaintiff to leave the events on the dates
stated above caused humiliation and embarrassment to Plaintiff and threatened to breach the
peace.
28. The Federation caused Plaintiff to suffer this indignity despite the fact that
Plaintiff was not a Federation member at any relevant time.
IT IS A PRACTICAL NECESSITY FOR PLAINTIFF TO
HAVE ACCESS TO THE KENTUCKY HORSE PARK
29. Plaintiff’s profession requires that he enter into the Kentucky Park beginning in May
of 2004 when three weeks of shows, starting with the Kentucky Spring Preview,
are hosted at the Kentucky Horse Park.
30. The Federation purports to bar the Plaintiff from attending equestrian events
notwithstanding the fact that Plaintiff voluntarily discontinued his annual membership in the
Federation in 1999, and notwithstanding the fact that these events occur at public places,
including without limitation the Kentucky Horse Park.
31. At no time relevant to this action has Plaintiff acceded to the Federation’s
jurisdiction by signing in at events or in any other way.
32. The Kentucky Horse Park is a working horse farm with 1,200 acres surrounded by
30 miles of white plank fencing.
33. The Kentucky Horse Park contains two museums, two theaters and nearly fifty
breeds of horses.
34. No Federation event has used or reasonably will use the entire premises of the
Kentucky Horse Park.
35. The Federation has created a climate of fear that has chilled the ability of
Plaintiff– and other non-members — to enJOY legally protected rights, causing Plaintiff
uncertainty regarding his ability to earn a living.
36. If the Plaintiff attends the Spring horse shows at the Kentucky Horse Park,
purportedly governed by the Federation, then breach of the peace is likely.
DEFENDANT FEDERATION’S HEARING PROCESS PURPORTS TO
SUSPEND THE PLAINTIFF IN ABSENTIA
EVEN THOUGH HE IS NOT A FEDERATION MEMBER
37. The Federation brought two formal proceedings against Plaintiff for violation of
the Rules as both a “member” and a “suspended member” even though, at all relevant times,
Plaintiff was actually a non-member by his own choice.
38. The more recent charges were based on Federation Rules that prohibit a
suspended member from attending certain equestrian events; namely, the three events described
above in paragraphs 20 and 26.
39. Previously, the Federation purported to suspend the Plaintiff for allegedly
committing cruelty to a horse on or about August 21-23, 2002 at the Kentucky Hunter Horse
Jumper Show that was held in Lexington, Kentucky.
40. On August 12, 2003, the Federation held a hearing on the charges against Plaintiff
and also on the charges against his daughter, Emily Williams.
41. Emily Williams was charged with similar violations for cruelty based on
“eyewitness accounts” by members of the Federation.
42. The Federation found her not guilty of the charges when a videotape was
produced that clearly proved that Emily had violated no Federation Rules.
43. The Plaintiff was not present at the August 12, 2003, hearing.
44. The Plaintiffs allegedly offending actions were not videotaped, and the
Federation found Plaintiff guilty based only on “eyewitness” accounts, upon information and
belief.
45. Thereby, the Federation purported to impose sanctions on Plaintiff, including
suspension from membership, prohibition from entering upon public and private lands and realty
used for purposes of equestrian events and payment of a fine to Defendants. These sanctions are
contained in an October 23, 2003 Hearing Report.
46. Neither the Federation nor any of its agents notified or in any way involved
legitimate law enforcement or animal protection authorities regarding either Plaintiff’s or his
daughter Emily’s alleged cruelty to animals, but instead purported to enforce its own “laws”
throughout the Commonwealth and the United States.
47. Non-members like the Plaintiff should be subject to the law of the land of which
they are presumed to be aware and as properly enacted by the duly elected legislature.
48. On March 4, 2004, Plaintiff appeared at the Federation’s more recent hearing
against the Plaintiff regarding his attendance– as a suspended member– at equestrian events.
49. Through his counsel, Pierce Cunningham, Esq., Plaintiff made only a special
appearance at the March 4, 2004, hearing to preserve his contest of the jurisdiction of the
Federation over his person.
50. At the hearing, the Federation barred a stenographer retained by Plaintiff’s
counsel from attending the hearing and thereby denied Plaintiff a record of the proceedings.
51. At the hearing, the federation threatened to expel Plaintiff permanently not only
from membership but from entering onto the public or private grounds of equestrian events,
including those held at the Kentucky Horse Park.
52. Upon information and belief, permanent expulsion and the natural consequence
for Plaintiff (i.&,., permanent loss of livelihood) is the standard punishment for attendance at an
equestrian event while “suspended” – even as to a person who was suspended despite the fact
that he or she was not a member of the Federation.
53. Plaintiff has exhausted administrative remedies and further appeal is futile.
COUNT I
54. Plaintiff restates the averments contained in paragraphs 1-53 as if fully rewritten.
55. The Federation has acted under color of law to deprive Plaintiff of constitutionally
protected property and liberty interests to enter upon public places and to earn his livelihood.
56. The Federation’s Rules that purport to govern and to punish the conduct of nonmembers
of the Federation are void and unenforceable in that the Federation has no jurisdiction
over such persons, including the Plaintiff.
57. The Federation’s Rules are overbroad in that they purport to disallow conduct that
is otherwise lawful.
58. The Federation’s Rules are overbroad in that they purport to govern non-members
in public places at which the Federation has no jurisdiction.
59. The Federation’s Rules are vague and ambiguous such that they do .not put a
reasonable person on notice of that which is allowed.
60. The severity of these deficiencies is heightened in that the Federation delegates
responsibility for identifying violations to all of its members, many of whom are untrained in
such matters.
61. The deficiencies are further heightened because the lack of clear standards
encourages such untrained members to enforce the Rules without substantial evidence and/or in a
manner that is irrational, arbitrary, and capricious.
62. The Federation’s hearing process is similarly violative of the Plaintiff’s rights
because the sanctions imposed on Plaintiff were imposed in the absence of jurisdiction and
without substantial evidence.
63. The Federation’s hearings themselves are further defective because they are
conducted in a manner that result in finding of facts and imposition of sanctions that are
irrational, arbitrary, and capricious.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff Cody J. Williams demands the following relief:
1. A permanent injunction enjoining Defendants from taking any steps to bar
Plaintiff from any equestrian shows or events and from taking any administrative action against
Plaintiff, including without limitation fining him or suspending him from the Federation;
2. A permanent injunction enjoining Defendants from taking any steps to enforce the
October 23, 2003, administrative action against Plaintiff;
3. A declaratory judgment that the Federation has no jurisdiction to bar Plaintiff
from any equestrian shows or events or to take any purported administrative action against him;
and 28813.1.
4. Any other relief to which Plaintiff may appear entitled.
Respectfully Submitted,
Mark Guilfoyle
Case Dismissed with Prejudice