United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Alan Pincus, Las Vegas, NV, for Plaintiffs.
Jessica S. Davis, Keli M. Neary, Office of Attorney General, Harrisburg, PA, for Defendants.
SYLVIA H. RAMBO, District Judge.
Plaintiffs Anthony Adamo (" Adamo" ), a licensed race horse trainer, and Michael Gill (" Gill" ), a licensed race horse owner, brought this case challenging the constitutionality of their ejections from Penn National Race Course (" Penn National" ) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Additionally, Adamo challenges the constitutionality of the subsequent suspension of his horse trainer's license. A bench trial was held from April 23 to April 26, 2012. For the following reasons, the court finds that Plaintiffs' claims fail either as a matter of law or as a result of Defendants' entitlement to qualified immunity.
Plaintiffs claim that Defendants, several past and present officials of the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission (" Commission" ) violated their Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to procedural due process and equal protection under the law when they were ejected from Penn National. Plaintiff Adamo further claims that his procedural due process rights were violated when he refused to comply with the Commission's investigatory interview request and his license was suspended without a pre-suspension hearing. During the bench trial, the court granted Defendants' motion for judgment as a matter of law as to Plaintiffs' equal protection claims, finding that Plaintiffs failed to adduce sufficient evidence that they were treated differently from other similarly-situated individuals. (Transcript, Bench Trial, at 528.) (hereinafter " Tr. at ___" ). Defendants also moved for judgment as a matter of law as to Plaintiffs' procedural due process claims, arguing both on the merits and, alternatively, that Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. The court reserved ruling on these issues. (Tr. at 528.)
In light of the court's finding that Plaintiffs' remaining procedural due process claims fail as a matter of law or, alternatively, that Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity, the court will refrain from providing a more thorough finding of facts from the testimony and trial exhibits. It is sufficient, at this point, to recite only the facts stipulated by the parties as undisputed, with supplemental facts and citations to the record as necessary to resolve the outstanding issues. With that in mind, the court finds as follows:
1. Plaintiff Michael Gill was a licensed horse owner. (Tr. at 300; Stipulation of Undisputed Facts (" Stip." ) 2.)
2. Plaintiff Anthony Adamo was a licensed horse trainer. (Tr. at 253, 268; Stip. 2.)
3. Defendant Michael Dillon (" Dillon" ) was acting Executive Secretary of the Commission during all relevant periods pertaining to this lawsuit. (Tr. at 5.)
4. Defendant Walter Remmert (" Remmert" ) was Director of Enforcement for the Commission during all relevant periods pertaining to this lawsuit. (Tr. at 165.)
5. Defendant John Hannum (" Hannum" ) was a commissioner of the Commission during all relevant periods pertaining to this lawsuit. (Tr. at 225.)
6. Defendant Corinne Sweeney (" Sweeney" ) is chairwoman of the Commission. (Tr. at 118-19.)
7. Defendant Raymond Hamm (" Hamm" ) is a commissioner of the Commission. (Tr. 193.)
8. Defendant Joseph Mushalko (" Mushalko" ) is Director of Operations of the Commission. (Tr. at 367.)
9. Jockeys and horsemen were threatening to boycott races at Penn National on February 2, 2010. (Tr. at 21, 46, 81.)
10. On January 22, 2010, Dillon sent an email to Sweeney, Hamm, Hannum, Mushalko and other officials of the Commission discussing the possibility of a boycott by jockeys at Penn National. The potential boycott centered on the jockeys' safety concerns regarding Gill's horses. The email further noted that the jockeys' threats of boycotts were violations of racing regulations, and such a boycott could form the basis of a lawsuit by Gill of interference with his business. (Tr. 90-92; Defs.' Ex. 72.)
11. To avoid the boycott, notices of ejection from Penn National were issued to Plaintiffs on February 2, 2010. The orders of ejection, attached to the notice, were signed by Dillon. (Stip. 1; Defs.' Exs. 14 & 15.)
12. The ejections were not based on any violations of horse racing regulations by Plaintiffs. (Stip. 3.) Rather, the ejections were issued because Defendants determined Plaintiffs' " continued participation ... has become inconsistent with the orderly conduct of the race meeting and is therefore inconsistent with the best interests of horse racing." (Defs.' Exs. 14 & 15.)
13. Plaintiffs' horses were allowed to continue to race at Philadelphia Park after the February 2, 2010 ejections. The only other thoroughbred track in Pennsylvania is Presque Isle Downs, which races between May and November. (Stips. 5 & 6.)
14. Plaintiff Adamo requested a supersedeas of the February 2, 2010 ejection. The request was denied by Mushalko. (Stip. 7.)
15. Plaintiff Adamo appealed his ejection from the Penn National Race Course within 48 hours of the ejection. (Stip. 8.)
16. Plaintiff Gill did not appeal his ejection from Penn National Race Course within 48 hours of the ejection. (Stip. 9.)
17. On April 22, 2010, Plaintiff Gill requested that the Commission rescind the ejection or hold a hearing on the matter. The Commission denied Gill's requests. (Stip. 10.)
18. Adamo's ejection was rescinded on March 5, 2010. Gill remains ejected from Penn National. (Stips. 11 & 13.)
19. At the time of the ejections, Gill had 49 free stalls at Penn National. Gill did not have stall space at Philadelphia Park. (Stips. 15 & 16.)
20. No hearings were held on the ejections either before or after their issuance. (Stip. 12.)
21. Following the ejections, Adamo returned to his native Canada. (Tr. 265, 266.)
22. While in Canada, Adamo received a letter dated June 28, 2010, from Walter Remmert, Director of Enforcement for the Commission, demanding that Adamo make himself available in Pennsylvania, in person, within ten days for an " investigative interview" and to bring with him documents including bank statements, tax returns for 2008 and 2009 and other personal financial records. (Ex. 55; Tr. 270-71.)
23. Adamo did not comply with the letter because he believed the letter was sent to harass him. (Tr. 271-72, 281.)
24. As a result of Adamo's noncompliance with the letter, Remmert spoke with Mushalko, who issued an order dated July 19, 2010 suspending Adamo's license " until such time as your are [sic] interviewed ...