On May 5, 2009, massage therapist Mercedes Clemens reached another milestone in her lawsuit to reclaim her right to massage horses when a judge essentially told the Maryland State Board of Chiropractic Examiners to “back off.”

Last summer, The Equiery reported that Mercedes Clemens was suing the Maryland State Boards of Chiropractic Examiners and Veterinary Medical Examiners for violation of her constitutional rights after the Chiropractic Board issued her several “cease and desist” orders, using documentation from the Vet Board as back up for their position. “The Maryland Constitution protects my right to earn an honest living free from unreasonable regulations,” explained Ms. Clemens at the time of the filing.

Eventually, because the Vet Board had not been responsible for directly sending Mercedes a cease and desist order, and because they claimed to have no problem with equine massage, so long as the practitioner did not claim that any health benefits would be derived, the case against the Vet Board was dismissed.

Wouldn’t that be sufficient? No, because the cease and desist order from the Chiropractic Board clearly stated that if Mercedes continued to practice on animals, they would rescind her license to practice on humans.

Washington Post’s John Kelly describes the conundrum and the May 5 scene in the courtroom in his May 6 column:

…How can an organization that oversees the massaging of humans crack heads when it comes to the massaging non-humans?

 The answer from assistant attorney general Grant D. Gerber seemed to be that by running afoul of the veterinary board, Mercedes had jeopardized her human license. But not long after Mercedes filed her case, the veterinary board withdrew its opposition to her practice and was dismissed from the suit. The chiropractors were left to sort of go it on their own. They remained bent out of shape.

”Let me get back to the question I initially asked,” said the judge. “Your board does not control the massage of animals. What authority does it have to issue a cease and desist order telling her not to massage horses?”

The assistant attorney general (AAG) had the unenviable task of having to defend a position that got sillier and sillier every time the judge described it. The vet board didn’t have a problem with her massaging horses? Uh, no. And the chiropractors have no jurisdiction over animal massage? Um, that’s right.

The problem, as Mercedes and her lawyers saw it, was that, according to the chiropractors, anybody in Maryland could massage horses except for licensed massage therapists.

Rather than ruling on either Mercedes’ lawsuit or the Chiropractic Board’s motion to dismiss, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge David A. Boynton suspended the hearing until June 2 in order to give the Board an opportunity to reconsider its policy.

The Equiery will keep you posted!

For more background on the lawsuit, visit our archives at equiery.com

For more information about the May 5 hearing, we recommend these articles.

The Daily Record: Reining in the Regulator

The Washington Post: Rubbed the Wrong Way: That Horse Massage Case

The Washington Post: Court Sides With Therapist Against Board