SALEM, Ohio – Ryan Daulton and the Ohio Department of Agriculture may see their day in court.
And when they’re there, both will have the chance to prove they’re just following the rules and want what’s best for everybody.
But only one can win in a fight that’s been the talk of showrings and county fairs across the state for more than a year.
Civil case. Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Beverly Pfeiffer agreed Nov. 3 to hear a civil case Daulton and his family brought against the department.
The case challenges the state’s zero-tolerance policy regarding livestock exhibitions and drug use, which the plaintiffs claim is unconstitutional, and alleges Ryan Daulton was denied due process by the department.
The landmark lawsuit will set a precedent – it’s the first Daulton attorney Philip Kaplan is aware of where a judge has accepted the jurisdiction of a governmental agency.
Mechanical failure. Daulton and his parents, Dennis and Joyceann, filed suit after his 2003 Ohio State Fair grand champion market lamb was disqualified after traces of ractopamine, commonly known as Paylean, were found in the animal.
In June 2004, Gene Rowe of Rowe Premix in West Manchester, Ohio, accepted charges that pegged accusations of contaminated feed on him.
Feed tests showed a mechanical failure in feed mixing equipment was at fault in the feed contamination. Rowe was to blame, but Daulton was punished for the mistake when the department withheld prize money and awards, the family argues.
Rowe has cooperated with the Daultons, but they can’t say as much for the department of agriculture.
Court records. Court-filed complaints say the Daultons have been denied an administrative hearing by the department, and have been denied due process to prepare and argue their side of the story.
The Daultons requested access to tissue or urine samples and other public records from the department Jan. 30 and Feb. 13, 2004.
“The hair, eyeballs, liver, we wanted it all. We were going to send it to an independent lab and find out about these tests,” Dennis Daulton said, referring to drug tests administered on the lamb.
In early June, they asked again for the records, and asked the department to confirm it had received the February request.
Despite three written requests for the materials, the Daultons and one of their attorneys, Philip Kaplan, maintain they have not received a response or all documents they requested.
“They failed to provide the documents. How can the Daultons possibly prepare to participate effectively in a hearing without them?” Kaplan says.
Resistance. The department of agriculture disagrees, according to spokesperson Mark Anthony.
ODA maintains the Daultons were provided all materials pertaining to their case in April 2004, and have been given the chance to see other documents they requested.
“They’ve gotten everything they asked for and gotten it promptly,” Anthony asserts.
That information, the department’s legal counsel says, was shared voluntarily, as there’s no requirement for them to share materials in preparation for a hearing.
Kaplan says he understands the ODA’s position in having no formal discovery process, but questions how they can make allegations and not release the information the allegations are based on.
Skipped the hearing. According to department records, the Daultons also resisted setting an administrative hearing date – the ODA’s method of arguing cases like this one – and have instead filed the suit “in an attempt to circumvent the entire administrative process.”
The department says the court has no jurisdiction in the case until after its own administrative process – where a final disqualification decision would be made –
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