US wants lawsuit over cockfighting ban junked


The defense counsel in the case filed by a former CNMI representative who is suing the United States over its ban on cockfighting has asked the U.S. District Court for the NMI to dismiss the case.

Johnny H. Walker, trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, has asked the district court to dismiss the lawsuit filed by former CNMI representative Andrew S. Salas over the federal law banning cockfighting.

Ultimately, Walker said, Salas’ legal theories about the power of U.S. Congress to prohibit cockfighting in the CNMI are meritless.

The defense added that the Animal Welfare Act and its amendments apply in the CNMI pursuant to Section 502(a)(2) of the Covenant, which specifies that all laws of general applicability in existence as of Jan. 9, 1978, and subsequent amendments to those laws, apply with equal force to the Northern Mariana Islands.

“But though the prohibition on cockfighting may have operated differently in different jurisdictions, it was still the law in each and every state and territory. And whatever may be said about the Animal Welfare Act’s prior exception for cockfighting, there can be no doubt that the broader ban on other forms of animal fighting applied to and operated uniformly in all states and territories. Congress’ amendment extending that ban to cockfighting in all jurisdictions therefore applies to the NMI,” Walker said.

He argued that the federal government has prohibited animal fighting in states and territories since 1976. “Initially, these prohibitions exempted fights involving live birds (i.e., cockfights) in areas where such fights were legal under state or territorial law. Between 1976 and 2014, Congress progressively limited this exemption through various legislative actions before closing it altogether in 2018,” Walker said.

“Plaintiff’s complaint fails to state a claim that is supported by law and should be dismissed with prejudice,” he added.

Salas filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court for the NMI against the United States of America over the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, specifically section 12616, which prohibited cockfighting in the CNMI.

Salas, through his lawyer, Joseph Horey, wants the court to issue a judgment declaring that a specific section of the Agriculture Improvement Act that effectively banned cockfighting in the CNMI is not applicable to or effective in the Northern Marianas.

Salas, who was a member of the 13th CNMI Legislature, also wants the court to issue an injunction prohibiting the United States and its agents from enforcing section 12616 of the AIA or 7 U.S.C. § 2156 in the Northern Mariana Islands.

Kimberly Bautista Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Bautista Esmores has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at

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