By T. D. Thornton
The New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) has fired back in court at Linda Rice's legal appeal of her three-year license revocation and $50,000 fine for “improper and corrupt conduct” that the trainer had deemed “unduly harsh.”
In a July 2 memorandum of law opposing Rice's request to have her penalties vacated, the NYSGC's legal team argued that “Ms. Rice is not entitled to a preliminary injunction staying enforcement of the commission's determination. Ms. Rice is not likely to succeed on the merits of any of her claims, and the equities weigh in favor of the commission. Accordingly, the motion for a preliminary injunction should be denied.”
The filing was made in Schenectady County Supreme Court by lawyers from the office of New York State Attorney General Letitia James, which is representing the NYSGC in the matter.
On May 17, culminating an investigation that had stretched over five years, NYSGC members voted 5-0 to agree with a hearing officer that Rice's years-long pattern of seeking and obtaining pre-entry information from New York Racing Association (NYRA) racing office workers was “intentional, serious and extensive [and] inconsistent with and detrimental to the best interests of horse racing.”
The ban went into effect June 7. Two days later, Rice's legal team secured a temporary injunction from the court that allows her to resume training while the legal process played out.
Rice's trainees have won at a 17% clip overall in 2021, but are just 2-for-26 since that June 9 injunction got her back on track.
The state is arguing in favor of letting the suspension and fine stand.
“From winter 2012 to June 2014, horse trainer plaintiff-petitioner Linda Rice regularly and routinely received information not available to any other trainer–the names and past performance of horses entered in races before that information became public–from an employee of the NYRA,” the opposing memo stated.
“Ms. Rice used this confidential information to determine whether she would enter or withdraw her horses in specific races, thereby choosing the races where her horses would have the best chance of winning and avoiding those races where her horses might have been less competitive.
“In so doing, Ms. Rice improperly obtained a competitive advantage to the detriment of other trainers, the owners of horses not trained by Ms. Rice, and the public.”
Over the course of an eight-day NYSGC hearing late in 2020, Rice contended she did nothing wrong by using her inside sources to gain a competitive advantage over other trainers.
“Ms. Rice moves for a preliminary injunction staying enforcement of the commission's penalty for her misconduct,” the July 2 filing stated. “The motion for a preliminary injunction must be denied because Ms. Rice has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits or that the equities weigh in favor of preliminary injunctive relief.
“With respect to Ms. Rice's CPLR Article 78 claims, substantial evidence supports the agency's determination. Ms. Rice admitted to obtaining the non-public race entry sheets and multiple witnesses deemed credible by the hearing officer testified that the names and past-performances of horses in overnight races are universally understood in horse racing to be confidential….
“Ms. Rice contends that the commission's determination was arbitrary and capricious because it departed from precedent. Yet Ms. Rice makes no showing that the commission treated her case differently than others, despite having the burden to demonstrate the conflict with past precedent she alleges. According to Ms. Rice, because no one had been caught and disciplined for behavior such as hers, the commission failed to follow its past practice.
“Ms. Rice's argument that the commission failed to properly weigh her disciplinary history or significance to the sport is baseless. The hearing officer explicitly acknowledged Ms. Rice's accomplishments and positive contributions to the sport…
“Because Ms. Rice failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits, the Court need not address the remaining elements. Nevertheless, Ms. Rice also failed to demonstrate that the equities weigh in her favor. Rather, the equities weigh against the granting of a preliminary injunction because of the magnitude of impropriety at issue,” the filing stated.