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Soileau v. Louisiana State Racing Comm'n

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Third Circuit

December 10, 2014

JOHN DARREL SOILEAU
v.
LOUISIANA STATE RACING COMMISSION consolidated with ALONZA LOYA
v.
LOUISIANA STATE RACING COMMISSION consolidated with ALVIN SMITH
v.
LOUISIANA STATE RACING COMMISSION consolidated with MICHAEL H. TAYLOR
v.
LOUISIANA STATE RACING COMMISSION

Page 730

Editorial Note:

This Decision is not final until expiration of the fourteen day rehearing period.

APPEAL FROM THE FOURTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, PARISH OF CALCASIEU, NO. C-2012-4442 CW C-2012-4443 CW 2012-4444 CW 2012-4445. HONORABLE DAVID ALEXANDER RITCHIE, DISTRICT JUDGE.

David Michael Hayes, Attorney at Law, Natchitoches, LA, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFFS/APPELLANTS: John Darrel Soileau, Alonza Loya, Michael H. Taylor, Alvin Smith.

Donald G. Kelly, Attorney at Law, Natchitoches, LA, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFFS/APPELLANTS: Alvin Smith, John Darrel Soileau, Michael H. Taylor, Alonza Loya.

Thomas Taylor Townsend, Kelly & Townsend, Natchitoches, LA, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFFS/APPELLANTS: Michael H. Taylor, Alvin Smith, Alonza Loya, John Darrel Soileau.

Rhea P. Loney, Assistant Attorney General, New Orleans, LA, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE: Louisiana State Racing Commission.

Court composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, John D. Saunders, and Billy Howard Ezell, Judges.

OPINION

Page 731

[14-540 La.App. 3 Cir. 1] SAUNDERS, Judge.

This is an appeal of the trial court upholding the licensure suspension of four horse trainers by the Louisiana State Racing Commission (LSRC) for administering dermorphin to race horses. The trainers contend that the trial court was in error because the hearing before the LSRC was defective and the trial court failed to recognize and correct these deficiencies.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:

Appellants, John Darrel Soileau, Michael Heath Taylor, Alonzo Loya, and Alvin Smith, Jr., are racing horse trainers. Between May and June of 2012, each Appellant was running at least one horse in the Delta Downs high-stakes prize races. Pursuant to the LSRC's rules, urine and plasma samples were collected from each horse.

Appellants trained horses whose samples tested positive for dermophin. As such, Stewards from Delta Downs held a hearing for each Appellant, where each received a penalty of $1,000.00 and a six-month suspension, the maximum the Stewards could impose. These cases were then sent to the LSRC.

The LSRC heard Appellants' cases during a two-day hearing. Subsequently, Appellants Taylor and Loya were each fined $10,000.00, and their licenses were suspended for five years. Appellant Soileau was fined $20,000.00, and his license was suspended for ten years because two of his horses tested positive for dermorphin. Finally, Appellant Smith, Jr. was fined $20,000.00, and his license was suspended ten years for only one violation because his case had the aggravating circumstance of his having prior occurrences of suspensions and fines due to administering improper substances to his race horses.

Appellants then filed petitions with the Fourteenth Judicial District Court, where their cases were eventually consolidated. After briefing and a hearing, the [14-540 La.App. 3 Cir. 2] trial court rendered a judgment affirming the periods of suspension for each Appellant, but vacated the fines and remanded the case for that issue.

Thereafter, Appellants filed this appeal now before us. In this appeal, Appellants allege five assignments of error.

ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR:

1. The district court erred in its finding that the LSRC did not abuse its discretion in excluding Appellants' exhibits.

2. The district court erred in failing to find that the State had established a chain of custody from Dr. Barker to the University of California -- Davis and throughout the process while being performed in California.

Page 732

3. The district trial court erred in finding that the provisions of Daubert and Foret were met by the LSRC in allowing the introduction of the dermorphin test and splits.

4. The district court erred in its finding that the LSRC denied Appellants their right to due process.

5. The district court erred in affirming the excessive suspensions levied by the LSRC.

ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR NUMBER ONE:

Appellants contend that the district court erred in its finding that the LSRC did not abuse its discretion in excluding their exhibits. We find no merit to this contention.

" Judicial review is a multifaceted function involving several categories: statutory or constitutional review, procedural review, substantive review, factual review, and " fact finding." Multi-Care, Inc. v. State, Dept. of Health & Hospitals, [14-540 La.App. 3 Cir. 3] 00-2001, p.3 (La.App. 1 Cir. 11/9/01), 804 So.2d 673, 674. The Louisiana Administrative Procedure Act, La.R.S. 49:964(G), provides:

[t]he court may affirm the decision of the agency or remand the case for further proceedings. The court may reverse or modify the decision if substantial rights of the appellant have been prejudiced because the ...

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