The Indiana Horse Racing Commission (IHRC) suffered two setbacks in civil court rulings.
In the first case, Madison Circuit Court denied a motion by the IHRC to dismiss a petition for judicial review by Standardbred trainer Bobby Brower, who was handed a default judgment from the commission that included a 15-year suspension recommended by an administrative law judge for alleged mistreatment of a horse in his care. The default judgment resulted because the IHRC said Brower and his attorney did not file a timely request for a hearing on the merits of the case.
The court ruled last fall Brower had been incorrectly “defaulted” after having properly and timely filed a response to the commission's administrative complaint. The case was remanded back to the IHRC for a hearing on the merits.
In October, according to a published report at Harnesslink.com, a settlement agreement was reached between the IHRC and Brower, reducing his suspension to four years with credit for time served going back to March 2017. According to the report, Brower also agreed not to seek a license in Indiana for seven years following his suspension.
The second case involves veterinarian Joseph Baliga, who was accused of giving a banned substance to a horse at Hoosier Park. Baliga received a five-year suspension and $20,000 fine recommended by an administrative law judge in a default judgment that similarly claimed Baliga and his attorney did not timely file a request for a hearing on the merits of the case.
Baliga petitioned for judicial review of the IHRC ruling and a lower court upheld the commission's motion to dismiss. The ruling was appealed to the Indiana Court of Appeals, which ruled in Baliga's favor, saying Indiana's rule permitting a default judgment was invalid and that the administrative law judge and commission “abused their discretion” in finding Baliga in default. The Indiana Supreme Court certified the appeals court ruling.
Baliga's case was remanded to the commission for a hearing on the merits, but no hearing date has been set.
Attorney Peter J. Sacopulos represented both Brower and Baliga.
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