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Judge Decides to Move Texas Cigar Industry Lawsuit to Washington D.C.

July 6th, 2018

In a stunning reversal, Judge Kimberly Priest Johnson, who has been overseeing the Texas cigar industry’s ongoing lawsuit against the FDA, has decided to transfer the case to Washington, D.C. where it will be decided by United States District Court Judge, Amit P. Mehta.

On May 22, Judge Priest Johnson denied the FDA’s motion to transfer the case to Washington. However, after further review of Cigar Association of America, et al. v. United States Food and Drug Administration, she decided to grant a Motion to Transfer to the Defendants on the basis that the FDA had “established the requisite commonality of questions, subject matter, and core issues” necessary to warrant a transfer order.

Moreover, in an earlier decision that same month, Judge Mehta ruled in favor of the FDA with regard to the Final Deeming Rule’s health warning requirements on cigar boxes and advertisements, but added that the FDA’s warning label plan “smacks of unfairness.”

To that end, Judge Priest Johnson concluded that due to the recent Cigar Association lawsuit appeal in Washington, D.C, both cases should be decided in the nation’s capital.

Speaking for the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR), Sr. Director of Federal Government Affairs, Daniel Trope, stated: “While this is a separate case from the one IPCPR is currently involved in in DC District Court, the association is disappointed to see the decision coming out of Texas.”

But as Judge Priest Johnson wrote in her order: “… the crux of the present lawsuit – the FDA’s failure to treat premium cigars differently from other cigars and to exempt premium cigars from the warning requirement – is squarely before the court in Cigar Association.”

In what could possibly spell a ray of hope for the Cigar Association in both cases, Judge Mehta appears to have some problems with the FDA. In his May decision he stated that the FDA’s actions have been “grossly unfair” with regard to the premium cigar industry, especially during “a period where [the FDA] is seeking comments from the public as pertains to premium cigars –comments that could result in a change [of packaging] requirements. . . In the court’s view, the prudent course would be for FDA to stay the warnings requirements. . .”

Mr. Trope said he was “encouraged” by the Judge’s remarks in recognizing that the FDA’s decision to proceed with the pending warning label deadline was rife with “basic unfairness,” said Mr. Trope. “We certainly aren’t taking anything for granted, however, as we’ve seen significant challenges in all the various legal proceedings to date concerning the Deeming Rule.”