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4-H Cheating Scandal Reaches 8th Circuit

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By Aditi Mukherji, JD on June 18, 2013 9:55 AM

The Eighth Circuit is “weighing in” on a lawsuit brought by the family of a South Dakota teenager accused of cheating in a 4-H pig-showing competition in South Dakota, reports The Associated Press. The family of White Lake teenager Bayley Kroupa says she was humiliated and denied due process when she was banned from 4-H competition in 2011 for an alleged ethics violation. They are suing and seeking $850,000 in damages.

Kroupa, then 16, was banned from 4-H competition in October 2011 for allegedly showing a pig at the 2011 South Dakota State Fair that she did not raise herself during the project season. Her father, Greg Kroupa, allegedly bought a Missouri State Fair pig from an animal dealer in Iowa following the hog’s success in a Missouri State Fair competition — a violation of the 4-H code of ethics.

4-H officials have appealed a federal judge’s ruling that Kroupa can participate in 4-H competitions while the lawsuit proceeds.

The parties argued before the Eighth Circuit about the injunction and whether Bayley should be allowed to compete in 4-H livestock exhibitions through the duration of the lawsuit.

To support preliminary injunctive relief, a party must meet the four factors set forth in Dataphase Systems, Inc. v. CL Sysmtems Inc.. The lower court granted the injunction after weighing:

  1. The threat of irreparable harm to the movant. The court found that Kroupa could face irreparable harm if she can't participate in 4-H competitions as the trial continues. Though courts have held there's no irreparable harm when a plaintiff is banned from government-sponsored sports, the court said 4-H competitions are different. They give cash prizes and also provide a means for showcasing livestock. The 4-H ban could affect Kroupa's college fund and livelihood as a future breeder of livestock. Kroupa also allegedly received derogatory statements from her peers through email and Facebook. 4-H officials argued they're not to blame for Bayley's peers learning of the cheating allegations. But the court sided with the 16-year-old.The takeaway point here is that the possibility of harm matters, not actual harm.
  2. The balance of harms. The Kroupa family attorney says Bayley has been denied the opportunity to win future cash prizes. 4-H attorneys say Bayley can still participate in 4-H, just not in competitions. The court sided with Kroupa because of her age -- she has two more years to compete in 4-H. The court determined the injunction was necessary because by the time this case is over, Kroupa will be too old to compete in the 4-H competition.
  3. The likelihood of success on the merits. The lower court found that Kroupa has shown she has a fair chance of succeeding on her procedural due process claim. Kroupa is arguing that she was deprived of a fair notice and hearing before being banned from 4-H competition.
  4. The public interest. The court held that South Dakota has a strong public interest to afford notice and a hearing when appropriate.

A ruling on the injunction by the Eighth Circuit will occur at a future date.

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