from the Madison Circuit Court No. 48C06-1704-MI-307 The
Honorable Mark Dudley, Judge.
Attorney for Appellant Peter J. Sacopulos Sacopulos, Johnson
& Sacopulos Terre Haute, Indiana
Attorneys for Appellees Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
of Indiana Patricia C. McMath Deputy Attorney General
VAIDIK, CHIEF JUDGE.
Veterinarian Joseph Baliga was accused of giving a banned
substance to a racehorse. He denies the accusation, but in a
disciplinary proceeding before the Indiana Horse Racing
Commission (IHRC), IHRC staff moved to have him found in
default and disciplined without a hearing on the merits. Dr.
Baliga opposed the motion, but an administrative law judge
granted it, and the IHRC affirmed.
Dr. Baliga then filed a petition for judicial review
challenging the entry of default. The IHRC filed a motion to
dismiss, arguing that its entry of default is not subject to
judicial review. The trial court granted the IHRC's
motion, and Dr. Baliga appeals. We hold that the IHRC's
entry of default (1) can be reviewed and (2) was an abuse of
discretion. We therefore direct the trial court to grant Dr.
Baliga's petition for judicial review and to remand this
matter to the IHRC for a hearing on the merits.
and Procedural History
Dr. Baliga specializes in the care and treatment of
racehorses. He is licensed generally by the Indiana Board of
Veterinary Medical Examiners and separately by the IHRC. In
the fall of 2016, Dr. Baliga was working at the track at
Hoosier Park in Anderson. On September 30, a security officer
reported that he had seen Dr. Baliga give a banned substance
to a horse. Under the IHRC's regulations, found in Title
71 of the Indiana Administrative Code, this accusation
exposed Dr. Baliga to two forms of disciplinary proceedings:
(1) proceedings by IHRC judges at the track, who can impose a
penalty of up to $5000 and a license suspension of up to one
year, see 71 Ind. Admin. Code 10-2, and (2)
proceedings by the IHRC itself, which can impose more serious
sanctions-a penalty of up to $5000 per day or occurrence and
a license suspension of more than one year (or a license
revocation), see 71 I.A.C. 10-3. Both types of
proceedings were initiated against Dr. Baliga.
First, on October 1, the IHRC judges at Hoosier Park imposed
a "summary suspension" of Dr. Baliga's IHRC
license-a temporary suspension pending a disciplinary hearing
before the judges. 71 I.A.C. 10-2-3; see also Ind.
Code § 4-31-12-15; Ind. Code § 4-31-13-2. At Dr.
Baliga's request, the judges held a hearing on the
summary suspension on October 31. Dr. Baliga was in
attendance with his attorney. At the beginning of the
hearing, an attorney for the IHRC explained:
As a reminder, today's hearing is not about the merits of
the underlying case. The only question is whether Dr. Baliga
should remain summarily suspended pending a final
disciplinary hearing and a ruling.
* * * *
Today's hearing is not on the merits of the IHRC's
case against Baliga.
Rather, it is only to consider whether it is appropriate for
[Dr. Baliga] to remain suspended pending the hearing on any
The merits hearing will come later. To that end it is
inappropriate for the Judges to consider eyewitness testimony
or evidence relating to any ...