The latest round in Jeff Mullins versus the California Horse Racing Board went in favor of the trainer when a hearing officer agreed June 2 to postpone a hearing until Aug. 13.
Hearing officer Steffan Imhoff had been scheduled to hear a request by the CHRB to add up to 70 additional days to a 30-day suspension Mullins is currently serving for a positive drug test on one of his horses in 2008. Before the June 2 hearing began, Imhoff granted a motion from Mullins’ attorney James Manniscalco to delay the hearing and also to change the location of the hearing, which will now be scheduled for Del Mar racetrack in Del Mar, California. Imhoff rejected a motion from Maniscalco that the hearing officer disqualify himself from the case.
Mullins is serving a 30-day suspension handed down by the CHRB after a horse tested positive in August 2008 for an excessive level of total carbon dioxide. An excessive level of total carbon dioxide is associated with the prohibited act of "milkshaking," in which a solution that includes baking soda is administered to a horse.The CHRB contends that the August 2008 positive test came during a time when Mullins was under a 12-month probation for a positive test on another horse in 2006. In the 2006 case, Mullins was suspended 90 days and served 20 of the days, with a stipulation that the remaining 70 days could be added to any suspensions that might result from any positive test(s) on Mullins-trained horses during the probationary period.
Mullins has filed suit against the CHRB, contending that the regulatory board violated his due process rights. Among other points in Mullins’ lawsuit are that the CHRB changed its own policies in reference to testing procedures and that it allowed biased witnesses to testify against the trainer.
The trainer received a temporary reprieve from the 30-day suspension when a judge last week granted a stay that was in effect from May 28 until Tuesday, June 1. On June 1, California Superior Court Judge Yuri Hoffmann declined to extend the stay and Mullins resumed serving the suspension, which is scheduled to end June 13.
Maniscalco said the hearing officer’s decisions to delay and relocate the hearing were positive steps in the process. However, he added, "anything short of complete vindication would be a disappointment."