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Date: 08-17-2020

Case Style:

State ex rel. Ned Hodkinson v. Ohio State Racing Commission

Case Number: 18AP-931

Judge: Betsy Luper Schuster


Plaintiff's Attorney:

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Defendant's Attorney: Dave Yost, Attorney General, Anthony J. Garcia,civil
and Charles E. Febus


{¶ 2} This matter was referred to a magistrate of this court pursuant to Civ.R. 53
and Loc.R. 13(M) of the Tenth District Court of Appeals. The magistrate issued the
appended decision, including findings of fact and conclusions of law. The magistrate
determined that the pertinent statutory and regulatory language requires the commission
to permit and adjudicate a timely appeal from a track judges' decision finding no infraction
occurred during a race. Hodkinson challenged the no-call decisions during two races, one
No. 18AP-931 2
at Scioto Downs and one at the Fairfield County Fair. As to the July 29, 2016 Scioto Downs
horserace, the magistrate reasoned that Hodkinson has no right to a writ of mandamus
compelling the commission to conduct a hearing regarding that race because he failed to
timely complain to the track judges about alleged interference by a competitor. The
magistrate concluded that no further analysis of this challenge was necessary. But as to the
October 13, 2016 Fairfield County Fair horserace, the magistrate found that Hodkinson had
preserved his challenge to the results of that race by timely complaining of interference to
the track judges. Hodkinson sought to appeal to the commission the track judges' finding
of no interference. The commission declined to hear the appeal. The magistrate thus
analyzed whether Hodkinson had a right to a hearing before the commission arising from
the track judges' decision. The magistrate concluded that because Hodkinson was a person
aggrieved by a ruling of the track judges, he was entitled to a commission hearing.
Consequently, the magistrate recommends this court issue a writ of mandamus ordering
the commission to reinstate and hear Hodkinson's appeal from the Fairfield County Fair
track judges' decision.
{¶ 3} No party objects to the magistrate's findings of fact, and we agree the
magistrate accurately outlined all the facts necessary to the disposition of this matter. Nor
does any party object to the magistrate's conclusions of law as to the Scioto Downs race
challenge. We likewise find no error as to that issue. Because Hodkinson did not timely
complain to track judges pursuant to Ohio Adm.Code 3769-17-11(B), he did not properly
initiate a review of his allegation of improper interference by a competing driver. Thus, as
the magistrate concluded, further analysis as to the Scioto Downs race is unnecessary.
{¶ 4} As to the Fairfield County Fair race, the commission has filed objections to
the magistrate's decision. It contends the magistrate erred in concluding Hodkinson was
"aggrieved" by a Fairfield County Fair track judges' "ruling" for the purpose of Ohio
Adm.Code 3769-17-41. Thus, the commission contends Hodkinson had no right to a
hearing. We agree.
{¶ 5} The commission, which consists of five members appointed by the governor,
is vested with broad regulatory authority over horse racing. R.C. 3769.02; R.C. 3769.03.
Pursuant to R.C. 3769.03, the commission "shall prescribe the rules and conditions under
which horse racing may be conducted" and "may issue, deny, suspend, or revoke licenses
No. 18AP-931 3
to those persons engaged in racing and to those employees of permit holders as is in the
public interest for the purpose of maintaining a proper control over horse-racing meetings."
These rules provide for the presence of three judges at the racetrack—a presiding judge and
two associate judges. See Ohio Adm.Code 3769-14-25; Ohio Adm.Code 3769-14-26. The
duties of the judges include investigating "any apparent or possible interference * * *
whether or not a complaint has been made by the driver." Ohio Adm.Code 3769-14-41(A).
The judges may sanction a licensee who engaged in foul driving, and they may reorder the
placement of horses after the running of a race based on a finding of interference. Ohio
Adm.Code 3769-14-29(A); Ohio Adm.Code 3769-17-14.
{¶ 6} Ohio Adm.Code 3769-17-41 authorizes licensee appeals to the commission.
The current version of Ohio Adm.Code 3769-17-41 states in pertinent part: "Any licensee
fined, suspended, expelled or any other penalty imposed [sic] by any judge's ruling may
appeal to the commission for a review of the decision." However, before this rule was
amended in 2019, it stated in pertinent part: "Any licensee fined, suspended, expelled or
otherwise aggrieved by any judges' ruling in the application of the rules of racing may
appeal to the commission for a review of the decision." (Emphasis added.) The parties
dispute the meaning of the emphasized terms in this former version, the version applicable
here. The commission argues the magistrate misapplied this rule authorizing an appeal to
the commission by misconstruing the meaning of "aggrieved" and "ruling." Conversely,
Hodkinson argues the magistrate did not err in finding that he was "aggrieved" by a judges'
"ruling," thereby entitling him to a hearing before the commission.
{¶ 7} Courts interpret administrative rules in the same manner as statutes. Wilson
v. State Chiropractic Bd., 10th Dist. No. 18AP-739, 2019-Ohio-3243, ¶ 35. "The primary
goal in construing statutes and administrative rules is to ascertain and give effect to the
intent of the rule-making authority." Id., citing State v. Hairston, 101 Ohio St.3d 308,
2004-Ohio-969, ¶ 11. As the magistrate noted, the commission did not define the terms
"aggrieved" and "ruling" for the purpose of former Ohio Adm.Code 3769-17-41. The
magistrate concluded that Hodkinson was "aggrieved," based on how that term is
commonly defined, because he suffered a detriment when the track judges denied his
requested relief. However, by improperly isolating the term "aggrieved" from its context,
No. 18AP-931 4
the magistrate applied too broad of a meaning to the term for the purpose of former Ohio
Adm.Code 3769-17-41.
{¶ 8} Even construing the track judges' decision finding no merit to Hodkinson's
interference complaint as a "ruling," he was not "aggrieved" by that ruling. In former Ohio
Adm.Code 3769-17-41, the words "otherwise aggrieved" were used to conclude a series of
terms relating to punitive consequences for a licensee that may arise from a track judges'
ruling. "Under the rule of ejusdem generis, where in a statute terms are first used which
are confined to a particular class of objects having well-known and definite features and
characteristics, and then afterwards a term having perhaps a broader signification is
conjoined, such latter term is, as indicative of legislative intent, to be considered as
embracing only things of a similar character as those comprehended by the preceding
limited and confined terms." State v. Aspell, 10 Ohio St.2d 1 (1967), paragraph two of
syllabus. "Thus, in the absence of a clear legislative manifestation to the contrary, where
the statute enumerates specific subjects or things of a similar nature, kind, or class, followed
by general words prefaced by 'or other', the meaning of the general words ordinarily will be
construed as restricted by the specific designations and as including only things of the same
nature, kind, or class as those specifically enumerated." Sells v. Historical Ctr., 10th Dist.
No. 82AP-508, 1982 Ohio App. LEXIS 15081, at *4 (Nov. 30, 1982). See State v. Mitchell,
32 Ohio App.2d 16 (10th Dist.1972) (finding the use of the word "otherwise" adjacent to a
term concluding a list reflected legislative intent to restrict the meaning of that term to the
"same basic nature" of the preceding terms).
{¶ 9} Applying the rule of ejusdem generis here, the term "aggrieved" has a more
limited application than that found by the magistrate. We find former Ohio Adm.Code
3769-17-41 reflected the commission's intent to restrict the meaning of aggrieved to
circumstances fundamentally similar to those involving a licensee being fined, suspended,
or expelled. If a licensee is fined, suspended, or expelled, a punitive action has been taken
against the licensee. Consequently, for a licensee to be "otherwise aggrieved," there must
have been some form of a punitive action taken against the licensee. Hodkinson essentially
contends that he was aggrieved because the track judges found no merit to his interference
complaint, thereby declining to reorder the placing of horses, including his horse. But no
punitive action was taken against him by track judges. Because Hodkinson was not
No. 18AP-931 5
aggrieved by a track judges' ruling for the purpose of former Ohio Adm.Code 3769-17-41,
he had no right to an appeal before the commission.
{¶ 10} For these reasons, we find the commission's objections have merit.
{¶ 11} Following our independent review of the record pursuant to Civ.R. 53, we
concur with the magistrate's conclusions of law as to the Scioto Downs race at issue. The
magistrate erred, however, in determining that Hodkinson is entitled to a writ of
mandamus ordering the commission to reinstate his appeal concerning the Fairfield
County Fair race. While the magistrate properly discerned the salient facts, he misapplied
the pertinent law to those facts. Hodkinson had no right, pursuant to former Ohio
Adm.Code 3769-17-41, to appeal from the Fairfield County Fair track judges' decision not
to take any action against a licensee based on his allegation of improper interference.
Therefore, we adopt the magistrate's findings of fact and his conclusions of law as to the
Scioto Downs race, but not his conclusions of law as to the Fairfield County Fair race. We
sustain the commission's objections and deny Hodkinson's requested writ.

Outcome: Objections sustained; writ denied.

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