Trainer Jeff Mullins, expected to begin a 70-day suspension June 1 in connection with a 2006 medication violation, has been granted an injunction against the order by a California Superior Court judge.
Judge Lisa Foster, in a brief hearing at the San Diego County central district courthouse May 26, issued the stay against the California Horse Racing Board. The agency ordered the 70-day suspension last month after a hearing officer had earlier found Mullins guilty of violating a probation agreement.
Mullins' attorney, James Maniscalco, is expected to return to the San Diego court June 3 to establish a schedule for a hearing on the appeal of the CHRB case, according to Mullins spokesperson Kelly Wietsma. The state attorney general's office is representing the CHRB.
Under the CHRB penalty, Mullins would have been forced to close down his barn operation at Hollywood Park, where he has 25 horses and 16 employees, and vacate the premises for the duration of the suspension. Maniscalco argued that such a ban would have caused irreparable harm to his client's livelihood.
“I have done nothing wrong and have waited years for my day in court to prove my innocence," Mullins said in a statement released by Wietsma. "Today was just one step on that journey, but it ensures that I will be able to train my horses until I finally get the opportunity to tell my story to a fair and impartial judge. I want to thank all of my owners and the many horsemen that have stood by me through this ordeal.”
The CHRB imposed the ban during an executive session of the commission at Hollywood Park April 28, overruling the hearing officer in the case, who had recommended 40 days.
Mullins served 20 days of the original 90-day suspension in 2008 for a Class II mepivacaine positive, with the balance dropped if there were no further medication violations for a one-year period. A Class III infraction for excessive total carbon dioxide (commonly known as a “milkshake”) was filed later in the year against Mullins and he served a 30-day suspension for that last year. A subsequent hearing was held into the probation violation.
In his petition for a writ of mandate overturning the CHRB's order, Mullins is challenging both of the earlier findings and argues he was unfairly prevented from presenting his case to the full commission when it imposed the 70-day ban. He also alleges bias against him from the CHRB's executive director at the time, Ingrid Fermin, and a consistent pattern of wrongdoing on the part of the agency, including its handling of drug testing. He has presented several affidavits to the court in support of his contentions.
“I am pleased that my client will be able to continue to perform the job that he loves and does so well," Maniscalco said. "Other than that, I would prefer to allow the documents we filed and the court’s order to speak for themselves.”