Baffert’s motions to stop NYRA disciplinary case rejected

The Honorable O. Peter Sherwood has rejected two motions by attorneys representing Bob Baffert to halt or postpone the New York Racing Association’s Jan. 24 disciplinary hearing with the embattled trainer.

Baffert’s legal team demanded that Sherwood waive his hearing as a hearing officer for the meeting and dismiss the hearing over an ultra vires act by NYRA. Sherwood, a retired New York State Supreme Court judge, rejected both motions in a Jan. 19 ruling.

Baffert’s attorneys argued that Sherwood had a pecuniary interest in the outcome of the proceedings and anticipated the merits of the hearing, alleging Sherwood flatly dismissed.

“Not only is refusal unjustified, but to comply with the demands would undermine the efficient administration of justice,” Sherwood wrote in his ruling. “In his plea for challenge, Baffert has not provided a concrete and clear reason why I cannot preside over this hearing fairly and impartially. He may have a pecuniary interest in the outcome of this proceeding. He has not provided a shred of evidence to support this speculation. motion to challenge must be rejected, if only for this reason.

“After more than 13 years on the bench,” he added, “I am confident that I can impartially weigh and analyze the facts and legal acts and make a fair decision based on the evidence presented.” .”

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Born in Jamaica, West Indies, Sherwood was appointed to the New York State Supreme Court in May 2008 and served until last year. Prior to his appointment to the bank, positions he held included New York City Corporate Attorney, New York State Solicitor General, and Assistant Attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

In Baffert’s motion, he claimed that Sherwood was being held after “a secret trial within NYRA” and because his lawyers were not given the details of the selection process, Sherwood would have to withdraw.

“Baffert argues that my pecuniary interest may be implied by my refusal to answer his questions about the circumstances underlying my arrest by NYRA to preside over this hearing,” Sherwood wrote. In summary, Baffert argues that because I, as Hearing Officer in this proceeding, do not wish to submit myself to act as a witness in this fishing expedition where he hopes to find evidence of a non-existent interest in the outcome of this proceeding “I must (or should voluntarily) withdraw. That’s just not the law and I’m declining the invitation.”

Responding to claims that he was biased on the case, Sherwood replied, “The argument is no more compelling and no less offensive in the context of a prejudgment claim.”

Baffert’s attorneys also argued that the proceedings had to be halted because the hearing was scheduled with an ultra vires act by the NYRA Racing Committee and was not based on a positive vote from the board of directors.

By denying that motion, Sherwood said it was filed after the Dec. 1 deadline for motions to dismiss and could not be heard. He added that the argument also failed on its merits, pointing out that the NYRA board can delegate authority. He wrote that the Racing Committee is addressing all issues related to NYRA’s racing activities and that disciplinary action and proceedings against racing personnel fall under the heading of being related to NYRA’s racing activities.

The disciplinary hearing, which begins Jan. 24, resulted from Baffert receiving a restraining order from the federal court that blocked Baffert’s temporary suspension from NYRA on May 17 after announcing that his Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) winner Medina Spirit had failed a post-race drug test.

NYRA cited in an amended complaint against Baffert that horses in Baffert’s care had six violations of racing rules and regulations from July 27, 2019, until prior to the 2021 Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (G1). It also included a California Horse Racing Board investigation that found 25 mislabeled drugs in Baffert’s shed.

The hearing may take two or three days.

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