Court Grants Amici Parties Time During Oral Arguments Of Florida Sports Betting Appeal

Written By John Holden on December 7, 2022
Amici parties Florida sports betting appeal

Shortly after the final briefs were filed in the Florida sports betting appeal, parties began jockeying for oral argument time.

The three most relevant parties in the case were the Seminole Tribe, the Department of the Interior and West Flagler Associates. West Flagler, which owns two pari-mutuel facilities, started this whole legal battle after filing suit over the provisions in the gaming compact that allowed Florida sports betting.

Amici parties want time as well

Those three parties were basically guaranteed time during the oral argument process on Dec. 14. But in this specific case, other amici groups wanted to speak as well. As a result, the court allowed the Florida state government and the Monterra group time as well.

The Florida government and Monterra AF filed amici briefs earlier in the process. Florida supported the overturning of Judge Dabney Friedrich’s ruling from November 2021, while Monterra wants it upheld.

Friedrich’s ruling that the Florida gaming compact violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act invalidated the agreement between Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe. Therefore, the short-lived Florida sports betting market was shuttered.

Monterra filed a lawsuit protesting the compact as well. But for different reasons than West Flagler. They argued the addition of certain Class III games to Seminole-owned casinos was in direct violation of Amendment 3. The amendment was a 2018 Seminole-backed ballot initiative that mandated voter approval of any gambling expansion.

However, once Friedrich made her ruling on West Flagler’s suit, Monterra’s suit was dismissed.

Breakdown of oral argument time

In the D.C. Court of Appeals, it’s standard for each party to receive 20 minutes to make their case. But given the unique nature of this case, the court divided that time all over the place.

In a per curiam order released last Friday, the court allotted oral argument time as follows:

  • The federal government – 20 minutes
  • West Flagler Associates – 20 minutes
  • Seminole Tribe of Florida – 15 minutes
  • State of Florida – 5 minutes
  • Monterra plaintiffs – 2 minutes

First, the Department of the Interior will make its case. Then, the Seminole Tribe and the Florida state government will have their time. Finally, West Flagler and Monterra will make their rebuttals.

The basis for these groups getting involved

It’s rare for amici groups to request time in oral arguments. It’s even more rare for the court to grant that time.

Courts will sometimes grant government agencies that request. On the other hand, it’s incredibly unique for a private amici party like Monterra to receive time in front of the panel.

The federal government and the Monterra group filed their motions for oral argument on Nov. 15. The State of Florida requested a minimum of five minutes of oral time.

They claimed that the state’s argument differs from the federal government’s and that the state is better positioned to inform the court.

Monterra made a similar argument as the state government. They claimed they were the lone anti-gambling expansion advocates, which uniquely positioned them in the case. Additionally, they have property interests that could be negatively impacted by implementing the compact. Monterra asked the court for 10 minutes of oral argument time.

How did other parties react?

The federal government was receptive to the state’s request. They didn’t officially object to its filing. Moreover, they even offered to allocate two minutes of their own time to the state as long as that’s all the time they would lose.

The feds’ response to the motion from the Monterra group was less receptive. The feds said that Monterra is trying to raise claims that no party to the appeal raised before. Monterra forthrightly admits this.

The federal government highlighted the fundamental differences in the arguments between Monterra and West Flagler. Therefore, they advocated against letting Monterra speak at oral arguments.

Monterra fought back

Monterra filed a reply brief rebutting the feds’ response. The group argued their objection was disingenuous because the government originally noted that the district court order could be construed as granting relief on the “shared claim” in West Flagler and Monterra.

The brief notes that the government voluntarily dismissed its appeal in the Monterra litigation, and the group opposed the voluntary dismissal.

Then, the dispute escalated. The government sought permission to file a surreply (a reply to the reply), where they argued that there was no ruling against Monterra. Instead, the court dismissed Monterra’s claims as moot after the district court ruled on the West Flagler claims.

The government argued that they appealed the Monterra case only out of an abundance of caution. They appealed just in case the district court ruled in both cases.

Ultimately, the government’s objections were not sufficient to stop the group from receiving oral argument time. Although the court did not award the entire 10 minutes Monterra wanted. Instead, Monterra will get two minutes to argue their case.

Photo by
John Holden Avatar
Written by
John Holden

John Holden is an Ottawa native raised in Oakville. Holding a J.D. / Ph.D., Holden is an academic at heart. For PlayFL, Holden will focus mostly on the legal developments in the current battle over Florida sports betting.

View all posts by John Holden