According to a report in Harnesslink, the New York Supreme Court (actually the lowest state court) had permanently vacated the suspension of harness trainer/owner Lou Pena and dismissed the charges levied by the New York Gaming Commission against him. This court had previously dismissed the charges under a show cause ruling earlier this year but gave the NYGC the opportunity to have the decision reversed.
As per the ruling, the NYGC responded that the court had no jurisdiction in the matter and that the 30 day limit to render a decision is discretionary. The court has decided in this case, where Pena's right to due process has been grossly violated, the court had jurisdiction in the case.
Mind you this court was not biased in Pena's favor. Originally the court ruled the NYGC had the right to suspend Pena indefinitely despite the fact the 30 day decision period had been passed without a decision so some leeway was permitted. However, as of October 1, 2013 when the court issued its final ruling, it had been 13 months without the hearing officer issuing their report and opinion. That is 13 months where Lou Pena has been in legal limbo, unable to challenge a hearing officers decision which never came. You can't fight a decision which has not been issued. Hence, the court has overturned his suspension and ordered the charges dismissed.
Why didn't the NYGC issue the report? A high profile case like this doesn't get lost in the system as part of the transition from the NYSRWB to the NYGC when the divisions were consolidated. My guess is the NYGC realized their case against Pena was questionable at best due to the method used to obtain the information which was used to issue the initial suspension ruling. Hence, one has to wonder if the delay was deliberate. Regardless of how you feel about Mr. Pena, the court did the right thing by intervening and ending this abuse of power.
Of course, the NYGC may appeal the decision but even if it doesn't, who knows how quick Pena gets back onto the backstretch of a harness track in New York state being the tracks are privately operated. It also seems a foregone conclusion that he will not be allowed back at the Meadowlands.
With Lou Pena having the charges tossed by the court in New York, now
is a good time to see how he is doing now that he has been 'exiled' to
Pennsylvania. At Pocono Downs, Pena is tied for fourth in the training
standings with his stable making 173 starts with 41 victories for a 24%
win percentage (.356 UTR), earning $379,425. Overall, Pena has 228
starts with 49 victories (.341 UTR) earning $504,230 when you include
his starts at Harrah's Philadelphia and Saratoga Raceway. Clearly, while
not earning what he did in New York, Pena is more than holding his own.
This is Not Your Father's Racetrack: Speaking of the Meadowlands, a press release describing the opening of what is being called Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment indicates this is not your father's racetrack. In fact, plans are to have the facility open year round even on dark days for social events. It will be interesting seeing the new facility come November 23.