Justice or Injustice?

In April of 2000, a Tennessee Walking horse trainer had a horse disqualified at a horse show. Almost two years later, the USDA filed a Complaint against that horse trainer accusing them of violating the Horse Protection Act. The Complaint was mailed to the accused horse trainer at the address noted on the April 2000 entry form, but the horse trainer had moved since April 2000.  When the horse trainer moved, they put in a change of address with the Post Office. The envelope containing the Complaint was signed for by someone the horse trainer did not know, and no knows what happened to that envelope. In March 2002, the USDA sent a letter, again to the address listed on the April 2000 entry form, advising the trainer that he had failed to answer. It is unknown what happened to that letter as well since it was sent to an old address. In October 2002, a motion for default was filed and another letter was mailed, also to the incorrect address. In December, 2002, the Administrative Law Judge issued a decision that the horse was sore and handed down a fine and a suspension. The decision by the Administrative Law Judge was personally served on the trainer at his current address and the Secretary of the USDA affirmed the Administrative Law Judge’s suspension and find, finding that the default process “did not deprive” the accused trainer of “his rights under the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

The USDA was in possession of countless entry forms from horse shows where the trainer in question had entered horses, each of those showed his current mailing address.  Additionally, the Walking Horse Trainers Association, maintains mailing lists of all licensed trainers and a simple google search (even in 2002) would have revealed the trainers correct/current address which is a matter of public record.

The trainer immediately hired a lawyer who filed an appeal. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled “Service by certified package is a constitutionally adequate method of notice” and went on to state “The fact that _____ (name omitted) may not have received the certified package does not negate the constitutional adequacy of the attempt to accomplish actual notice.”  Simply put, the suspension and fine were upheld even though the trainer was not personally served a copy of the Complaint and was completely unaware of the proceedings against him.

The trainer served a one year suspension and paid a $2200.00 fine although they did not actually receive the Complaint until after the USDA handed down and affirmed the Default Decision.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals only serves to review the matter and ensure the Administrative Laws are adhered to, not to contest them or over turn them.