Blea asks California Superior Court to release suspension

California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) Equine Medical Director Jeff Blea has filed a writ of warrant in the California Superior Court for Los Angeles County seeking to lift the California Veterinary Medical Board’s interim suspension on his veterinary license.

The court filing, dated Feb. 24, also seeks declaratory relief and an injunction, arguing that the position of equine medical director does not require an active license, and that Blea, UC Davis and the CHRB will continue to suffer “irreparable harm.” “if California’s chief horse racing veterinarian remains unable to perform his duties.

UC Davis placed Blea on administrative leave from his role as equine medical director in January. This position is first nominated by the Dean of UC Davis, who then contracts with the CHRB for the services of the appointee.

In the meantime, UC Davis has brought in “academic staff” to serve as the CHRB’s Equine Medical Director.

On Monday, Blea also officially kicked off the ball rolling toward a formal hearing into the veterinary board’s charges against him, by filing a notice of defense.

In the meantime, Blea will also likely seek to suspend the interim suspension of his veterinary license until the Superior Court can formally hear the case, his attorney, George Wallace, said.

Another purpose of the stay would be to potentially delay the formal hearing on the charges against Blea so that the veterinary board would receive advice from the Superior Court “about what the law is,” Wallace said.

Earlier this year, the veterinary board announced that an emergency hearing had resulted in an interim suspension of Blea’s veterinary license for a number of alleged offences, including the alleged administration of drugs to horses from race without prior examination, without establishing a diagnosis and without a medical examination. need.

The veterinary board also claimed Blea posed a ‘danger to public health, safety and welfare’, due to his oversight as equine medical director of the highly publicized spirit death inquest. de Medina trained by Bob Baffert (Protonico), the Kentucky Derby winner who collapsed and died after a scheduled practice on December 6 at Santa Anita.

The autopsy and post-mortem examination of Medina Spirit’s death is now complete, with cause of death undetermined. John Pascoe, the associate executive dean of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, ultimately oversaw the necropsy examination.

According to various leading veterinary medical experts, the charges brought by the veterinary board against Blea, including the amended charges earlier this month, consist largely of lax record keeping.

Veterinary experts also suggest the Vet Council’s investigation potentially failed to take into account the unusual nature of backyard veterinary practice, where vets – even those with multiple barns in their care – can establish the type of daily relationship with their animals absent from traditional small farms. animal practice.

In his Superior Court filing, Blea argues that the interim suspension of his veterinary license is invalid for several reasons, including how the administrative law judge who issued the suspension used a “preponderance of evidence” to support his decision. decision, instead of the required a higher standard based on “clear and convincing evidence with reasonable certainty”.

The judge’s findings “are not supported by the weight of the evidence, or by substantial evidence, or not at all,” the filing says.

Moreover, even though Blea retired from medical practice in June last year – to take on the role of equine medical director – there is “no substantial evidence” to suggest that even if he was still practicing, he poses a “danger” to anyone, the filing states.

“The prosecution is devoid of any assertion or suggestion that any equine patient of Dr. Blea was harmed in any way, or that any of Dr. Blea’s clients (the owners and trainers of these horses, the “consumers” of veterinary services whose interests must be protected by the Council of Veterinary Doctors) have the slightest complaint about its professional practices in the care of these patients, ”adds the file.

The veterinary council also argued that the statutory definition of the position of equine medical director means that Blea actively engages in veterinary medicine while carrying out his duties.

In his Superior Court filing, Blea disputes that assessment, arguing that the veterinary board’s reading of the state’s Business and Professions Code is “overbroad and unreasonable” and incorrect “in law.”

The CHRB threw their weight behind Blea. Earlier this month, senior CHRB officials said the agency was considering a similar legal intervention in Superior Court on Blea’s behalf.

On Monday, CHRB executive director Scott Chaney said the agency was still finalizing that strategy.

the NDT also asked UC Davis whether Blea would return to his duties as equine medical director if the California Superior Court grants a reprieve from his interim suspension. UC Davis has yet to respond.

About Hector Hedgepeth

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