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State Fair properly stripped champion sheep title, but penalties merit hearing

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The Indiana State Fair Board’s decision to strip a winner of his grand champion sheep prize will stand, but the 4-H’er was entitled to a hearing on penalties, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday.  

Jordan Parker was awarded 2011 Grand Champion Market Lamb and his animal raised $23,000 at the state fair Sale of Champions, but a drug screen after the sheep was slaughtered detected the presence of a feed additive for cattle not FDA-approved for sheep. Parker and his parents deny administering the prohibited feed additive.

After the positive drug test on the sheep, Parker lost not just the title, but also the auction sale prize money. He also was banned for two years from the sheep department and permanently banned from state fair 4-H sales. He faces a lifetime ban from participating in any state fair activities upon further infractions.

When Parker’s parents challenged the drug test results and sought to independently test the samples, they were informed the samples had been exhausted. They claimed among other things that Jordan had a property right in the lamb, he was deprived a due process hearing to challenge the drug test results, that the punishment was excessive, and that the fair board’s policy considering drug test results final and binding was unconstitutional.

On appeal of the fair board’s judicial review, a Marion Superior judge granted summary judgment in favor of the board, and the Court of Appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded, holding that the Parkers had agreed to terms and conditions set forth in the State Fair/4-H handbook.

“They agreed to be bound by the Handbook, including its requirement that the drug testing was ‘final and binding,’” Judge Michael Barnes wrote for the panel in Jordan Parker, a minor, individually, and by James Parker and Cheryl Parker, as Natural parents and next friends of Jordan Parker v. Indiana State Fair Board, an agency of The State of Indiana, 49A02-1212-PL-1003.   

But the panel ordered the trial court to conduct a further, narrow hearing.

“However, because the summary judgment motions addressed only the admissibility of the drug test results, we conclude that Jordan was entitled to an evidentiary hearing regarding the penalties imposed on him,” Barnes wrote.
 

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