In a decision filed earlier this month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit dismissed trainer Rick Dutrow Jr.'s appeal of a 10-year license suspension in which he claimed his due process rights were violated during an administrative proceeding.
In 2011, Dutrow's training license was revoked for 10 years by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, predecessor to the New York State Gaming Commission, after three days of testimony before an administrative hearing officer. Following the suspension, Dutrow filed a lawsuit against the New York State Gaming Commission; John Sabini, who had served as chairman of the NYSRWB and was an officer of the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI); the ARCI itself; and NYSRWB members Daniel Hogan and Charles Diamond, claiming that the board's decision to revoke his license “violated his federal rights to due process.”
Attorneys for Dutrow first argued before the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, that his rights were violated in three ways: 1) by a conflict of interest involving John Sabini, who was serving both on the board of the Association of Racing Commissioners International and as chairman of the New York State Racing and Wagering (predecessor to the New York State Gaming Commission); 2) as a result of that conflict or because the Racing and Wagering Board retaliated against Dutrow for appealing a previous 90-day suspension against him; 3) because the Racing and Wagering Board applied statutory and regulatory standards that were unconstitutionally vague.
Sabini “was a participant in the decision of ARCI to cause Dutrow's license to be revoked,” Dutrow's attorney argued, due to the fact ARCI president Ed Martin wrote in a letter to the Racing and Wagering Board that it should consider Dutrow's “suitability” for participation. Further, Dutrow alleged, “Sabini was on both sides of the equation (prosecutor and decision maker)” and the penalty imposed on Dutrow was “unreasonably affected by the actions of ARCI while Sabini was its Chairperson of the Board-Elect.”
The Appellate Division dismissed those claims, ruling he was not “denied a fair hearing,” though it did not specify whether Sabini's alleged conflict of interest tainted the administrative process.
In affirming the Appellate Division, the Court of Appeals Judges wrote:
“In sum, when the Appellate Division decided that Dutrow was not denied a fair hearing, it actually and necessarily decided the issue of whether the hearing officer's and Sabini's actions during the proceeding constituted due process violations. And because Dutrow had a full and fair opportunity to litigate that issue (and did litigate that issue) in the Article 78 proceeding, he was collaterally estopped from relitigating it before the district court.”
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