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decided: January 3, 1984.


Original Jurisdiction in case of Vincent Tulio and T-T Stable, Owner of "Two Lines" v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, State Horse Racing Commission et al.


John L. Heaton, with him Thomas J. Bender, Jr., Dilworth, Paxson, Kalish & Kauffman, for petitioners.

Michael L. Harvey, Deputy Attorney General, with him Allen C. Warshaw, Deputy Attorney General, Chief of Special Litigation, and LeRoy S. Zimmerman, Attorney General, for respondents.

Judges Williams, Jr., Doyle and Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Barbieri.

Author: Barbieri

[ 79 Pa. Commw. Page 307]

Presently before this Court are preliminary objections raised by the respondents in this action to that part of a petition for review filed by the petitioner addressed to this Court's original jurisdiction wherein the petitioner seeks injunctive relief and money damages under Section 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

On December 23, 1981, the state veterinarian at the Keystone Race track placed the petitioner's horse "Two Lines" on the "Veterinarian List" after the horse exhibited abnormal activity following its entry in the sixth race that day. Thereafter, the petitioner attempted to have the horse removed from the list, but was informed by the state veterinarian that the State Horse Racing Commission (Commission) had decided that his horse should remain on the list. A horse placed on the veterinarian list in Pennsylvania cannot race until the horse is once again proven physically sound. See 58 Pa. Code § 163.453.

Upon the petitioner's request, a hearing was scheduled before the Commission which was conducted on November 23, 1982. By a decision and order dated January 24, 1983, the Commission denied the petitioner's request to remove "Two Lines" from the veterinarian list. On February 18, 1983, the petitioner filed with this Court a petition for review addressed to both this Court's appellate and original jurisdictions wherein he has named as the respondent parties, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the State Horse Racing Commission, and Commissioner Joan F. Pew, a

[ 79 Pa. Commw. Page 308]

    member of the Commission. The respondents have filed preliminary objections to that part of the petition for review addressed to this Court's original jurisdiction in which the petitioner has requested injunctive relief from the Commission's order, and money damages pursuant to Section 1983. The respondents request that the petitioner's original jurisdiction petition for review be dismissed since (1) the petitioner has a full, complete, and adequate remedy at law in this Court's appellate jurisdiction, (2) that the doctrine of sovereign immunity bars the petitioner's claim for money damages against the Commonwealth and the State Horse Racing Commission, and (3) that the petitioner's claim against Commissioner Joan F. Pew is barred under the doctrine of judicial immunity.*fn1

In addressing the first of the respondents' preliminary objections, we note that in this Commonwealth it is well established that a court of equity lacks jurisdiction to entertain a cause of action for which there exists a full, complete and adequate remedy at law. St. Joe Minerals Corporation v. Goddard, 14 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 624, 324 A.2d 800 (1974) (citing cases). This is particularly true where the remedy at law is set forth in a statute relating to the subject matter of the case. Rankin v. Chester-Upland School District, 11 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 232, 312 A.2d 605 (1973). In determining whether there exists an adequate remedy at law precluding the petitioner from seeking equitable relief, we must first look at the basis for the petitioner's

[ 79 Pa. Commw. Page 309]

    petition for review addressed to our original jurisdiction, and determine if under the circumstances alleged there exists a remedy at law, and if so, whether that remedy is adequate and complete.

In the petitioner's petition for review to this Court's original jurisdiction, he has alleged in general that the Commission's decision and order of January 24, 1983, was based upon facts not a part of the record which he learned at or after the Commission's hearing. In particular, the petitioner has advanced numerous allegations regarding Commissioner Pew's involvement in the actual investigation of the horse "Two Lines", as far back as the December 23, 1981, incident, in which the petitioner contends that Commissioner Pew actually orchestrated the gathering of information about the case, had made a decision on the merits of the case long before the Commission's hearing, and despite her extensive involvement in the case, presided over the hearing which was to determine whether the Commission acted properly in keeping "Two Lines" on the veterinarian list and consequently from racing.*fn2 Since it is not our purpose in

[ 79 Pa. Commw. Page 310]

    the present proceeding to pass upon the veracity of the petitioner's allegations, we will for the purpose of deciding whether or not the respondents' preliminary objections be sustained, assume that the facts as pleaded by the petitioner are true. See Metropolitan Page 311} Hospital v. Department of Public Welfare, 21 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 116, 343 A.2d 695 (1975).

Basically, the petitioner is alleging that his right to due process of law has been violated by the alleged actions of the Commission in the adjudication of his case. Certainly, the question of whether a person's constitutional rights have been violated can be addressed by this Court on appeal. See Section 704 of the Administrative Agency Law, 2 Pa. C.S. § 704; 58 Pa. Code § 165.185(a). The petitioner contends however, that meaningful review in this Court's appellate jurisdiction is impossible since the Commission's adjudication is based upon facts not made a part of the record. While this point is well taken, we do not believe that in this particular case, the petitioner's remedy at law is rendered inadequate. On appeal, if it appears to this Court that the basis for the petitioner's contentions are not a part of the record, and it appears that the petitioner could not by the exercise of due diligence have raised his due process contention before the Commission, see Pa. R.A.P. 1551, this Court may always remand the case back to the Commission with directions that it conduct a hearing regarding the petitioner's allegations and, if necessary, order that Commissioner Pew be disqualified from the hearing*fn3

[ 79 Pa. Commw. Page 312]

    since it would be clearly impermissible for her to sit as a judge in proceedings in which she is the subject of the actions complained of. Tuney v. Ohio, 273 U.S. 510 (1927).

It is also the conclusion of this Court that insofar as the petitioner's petition for review seeks damages against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State Horse Racing Commission, the petitioner's complaint must be dismissed and the respondents' preliminary objections sustained. Our General Assembly, pursuant to Section 11 of Article 1 of the Constitution of Pennsylvania, has declared that the Commonwealth*fn4 shall enjoy sovereign immunity from suit, see 1 Pa. C.S. § 2310, except in those situations, none of which apply to the present case, where sovereign immunity has been specifically waived. See Section 8522 of the Judicial Code, 42 Pa. C.S. § 8522.*fn5

The respondents' last preliminary objection requests this Court to dismiss the petitioner's petition for review seeking money damages against Commissioner

[ 79 Pa. Commw. Page 313]

Pew under Section 1983 upon the basis of quasi-judicial immunity. In Petition of Dwyer, 486 Pa. 585, 406 A.2d 1355 (1979), our Supreme Court, following the lead established by the United States Supreme Court in Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478 (1978), extended the principle of quasi-judicial immunity to agency officials performing adjudicatory functions within an administrative agency. This ruling was adopted in part, upon the belief that adjudications within an administrative agency share enough of the characteristics of the judicial process (e.g., issuing subpoenas, ruling on evidence, regulating hearings, and making or recommending decisions), that those who participate in them should be absolutely immune from suit for damages. An important element which must be established before this immunity can apply, however, is whether or not the actions complained of were performed within the quasi-judicial function. If not, then quasi-judicial immunity cannot apply. Id. In the present action, we are certain that Commissioner Pew, when acting in her adjudicatory capacity, enjoys quasi-judicial immunity since her functions in that capacity substantially parallel those functions which were the basis for the quasi-judicial immunity granted in Butz and Dwyer, See Section 201 of the Horse Racing Industry Reform Act, Act of December 17, 1981, P.L. 435, as amended, 4 P.S. § 325.201; 58 Pa. Code § 165.183(a), (c). While the respondents allege in their brief that the petitioner's suit is based only upon Commissioner Pew's failure to recuse herself, an action which we believe falls within her adjudicatory capacity and for which quasi-judicial immunity would apply, our review of the petitioner's allegations, as discussed earlier, reveals that many of the actions complained of fall outside the adjudicatory function.*fn6

[ 79 Pa. Commw. Page 314]

We cannot say then that the doctrine of quasi-judicial immunity can protect Commissioner Pew from damages arising out of these actions.*fn7 The respondents' preliminary objection regarding quasi-judicial immunity, therefore, is sustained only insofar as it relates to Commissioner Pew's failure to recuse herself from the Commission's adjudication, and denied in all other respects.


And Now, this 3rd day of January, 1984, the preliminary objections of the respondents in the above captioned matter are sustained insofar as the petitioner's petition for review (1) requests injunctive relief, (2) states a cause of action against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State Horse Racing Commission, and (3) seeks money damages against Commissioner Joan F. Pew for actions within her adjudicatory capacity, and are denied insofar as they seek to dismiss the petitioner's petition for review against Commissioner Pew for those actions complained of outside her adjudicatory functions.


Preliminary objections sustained in part and denied in part.

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