The Jockey Club turned Redmond down.
And in May of 2005, Redmond decided to file suit arguing that this denial deprived him of his constitutional rights.
The first court to weigh in on this case was the United States District Court. Senior Judge Karl Forester dismissed the lawsuit, indicating that the Jockey Club had the power to do what it did. Redmond appealed, and in August the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati upheld Forester’s ruling.
The Court of Appeals ruled that the Jockey Club can prevent Redmond from naming his horse after Sally Hemings.
The opinion was written by Judge Alice Bachelder, who stated that the Jockey Club is a private organization and its power comes from the state. She ruled that it therefore can restrict free speech as long as it doesn’t restrict the speech in a way that would discriminate against a particular viewpoint.
Apparently, Bachelder is a fan of the ’70s band America, as she indicated: “In short, because he has spent three years insisting he has a constitutional right to name his horse ‘Sally Hemings’ and that no other name will do, Redmond now finds himself, like the songster of the ’70s, having ‘been through the desert on a horse with no name.’”
Bachelder further indicated that “if he really wants to race or breed this horse in Kentucky, Redmond will have to come up with a name that complies with the Jockey Club’s rules.”
This horse has run in Kentucky on two occasions with the provisional name Awaiting Justice. Apparently, this is Redmond’s view of the situation. She doesn’t seem like much of a racehorse, however, for in her two races in July, one at Churchill Downs and the other at Ellis Park, Awaiting Justice did not win, place or show.
I am in agreement with and in support of this decision. I think that courts have a duty, if not an obligation, to make rulings such as this even though I am a strong 1st Amendment advocate.
There are, of course, limits to these freedoms. You cannot name a horse with the “N” word.
I can think of a bunch more names off the top of my head that can’t be printed in this column that would be inappropriate as the name of a horse. You can’t yell “fire” in a crowded movie theater.
I don’t live in Louisville, but I think I can understand how the name Sally Hemings would be offensive to many. With that in mind, I support the court’s decision.