Cockfighting supporters ask high court for rehearing

Thursday, December 27th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Cockfighting supporters asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Wednesday to rehear arguments on an initiative petition to ban the practice, saying the court's decision to approve the petition was ``fraught with factual and legal errors.''

``It contains facts and legal conclusions that are unrelated to the evidence,'' Tulsa attorney Larry Oliver said in legal papers filed on behalf of the Oklahoma Gamefowl Breeders Association. ``The court erred in relying upon nonexistent facts to support its decision.''

Oliver wants the court to reconsider last month's ruling that validated an initiative petition seeking to ban cockfighting in Oklahoma. If the petition stands, the issue will be placed on the ballot for a statewide vote, most likely in November.

Janet Halliburton, chairwoman of the Oklahoma Coalition Against Cockfighting, said the request is ``ridiculous'' and another attempt to keep the issue from voters.

``They know once there is (a vote), cockfighting will again be illegal in Oklahoma,'' she said. ``Cockfighting is antiquated and it's cruel and it makes Oklahoma look backward.''

Oliver said he thinks it unlikely that justices will reverse their 8-0 decision.

``Nobody likes to admit they're wrong,'' he said.

Oliver said the most glaring error by the court was the validation of 35,832 petition signatures where the petitioners' names and addresses did not match a state database of registered voters.

Justices ruled cockfighting supporters did not try to validate the petition signers' registration status beyond the database, and that the database was unreliable because it was nearly two years old. The ruling was the opposite of the recommendation by Supreme Court Referee Gregory Albert after a hearing on the issue.

``That conclusion is in very serious error. That was not the evidence,'' Oliver wrote.

Oliver said Wednesday the voter list was purchased two weeks after the signatures were filed in 1999, and the transactions were updated the day it was bought. The database covered the four months during which signatures were gathered.

Papers filed by Oliver state the court's opinion that the database is unreliable and created a new and ``chaotic'' process for initiative petitions that would require anyone protesting a signature to subpoena every voter in question _ in this case nearly 36,000 people.

``The opinion has unjustly changed the law,'' he wrote.

Without the nearly 36,000 signatures, the petition would not have enough names to place the issue on the ballot.

The Oklahoma Constitution requires a petition be signed by a number of legal voters equal to at least 8 percent of the total number of votes cast at the last general election for the state office receiving the highest number of votes.

Cockfighting opponents needed 69,887 signatures to get the issue on a statewide ballot. Without the nearly 36,000 signatures questioned by Oliver and other supporters, the petition would have only 63,918 _ not enough to send it to a vote.

Oklahoma is one of three states that allow cockfighting. The others are Louisiana and New Mexico.