By Bill Finley
The matter of whether or not the New York Racing Association should be held in contempt and whether it can go ahead with a hearing that could lead to the suspension of Bob Baffert landed once again Friday on the desk of Judge Carol Bagley Amon.
The latest twist in the Baffert-NYRA saga began last week when Baffert's attorneys charged that NYRA should be held in contempt because of its announced plans to afford Baffert a hearing. The two sides have been at odds over the interpretation of a July 14 ruling from Amon, which blocked NYRA's plans to immediately exclude Baffert from its tracks. The Baffert team contends that Amon's ruling forbade NYRA from, at this point in time, taking any disciplinary actions against the trainer and called the proposed hearing a “sham.” NYRA has argued that it has been fully compliant with the order all along and should be permitted to go ahead with the hearing. The latest filing from NYRA read: “Plaintiff moves to hold NYRA in contempt for providing Plaintiff exactly what he argued he was entitled to in support of his motion for a preliminary injunction–notice and an opportunity to be heard.”
On Friday, Baffert's attorney Craig Robertson sent Amon a letter requesting permission for Baffert to file a Reply Memorandum that challenged NYRA's latest legal maneuver and reiterated reasons why the court should hold NYRA in contempt and issue a stay that would prevent NYRA from going forward with the hearing, now scheduled to begin Oct. 11.
The Reply Memorandum outlined the following arguments, most of which have appeared in previous court filings.
(*) NYRA should be held in contempt for violating the Injunction Order.
“The Injunction Order is clear, unambiguous, and directly prohibits NYRA from suspending Baffert,” the filing reads. “NYRA is simply inventing imagined ambiguities where they do not exist to excuse its own bad faith effort to circumvent the Injunction Order.”
(*) NYRA's new rules, procedures and charges are inconsistent with due process.
“Baffert has already defeated NYRA in court when it sought to unilaterally and unlawfully suspend him,” the filing reads. “It now seeks to do the very same thing all over again with vague and highly subjective charges. The idea that he will receive, through the retroactive application of newly created rules and procedures, a fair adjudication from a body intent on punishing him, is laughable.”
(*) NYRA should be sanctioned.
“Finally, NYRA argues that it should be excused from the consequences of its overt attempt to circumvent the Injunction Order,” the filing reads. “However, civil contempt sanctions are necessary to 'coerce future compliance and to remedy past compliance.' NYRA is a sophisticated entity with a long history of litigation. It is painfully obvious that its failure to abide by the Injunction Order is no accident. Sanctions and fees are necessary in this case to make it clear to NYRA that the Court will not tolerate its actions.”
The Baffert team again requested that its client be reimbursed for his legal fees.
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York has a hearing date set for Oct. 5 on Baffert's motion to hold NYRA in contempt and to issue a stay regarding possible suspension proceedings.