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SAUMELL v. NEW YORK RACING ASSN.

January 18, 1985

LAZARO SAUMELL, Plaintiff, against THE NEW YORK RACING ASSOCIATION, INC., et al., Defendants


The opinion of the court was delivered by: GLASSER

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

GLASSER, United States District Judge:

 Plaintiff in this action, a jockey licensed to participate in thoroughbred race meets, seeks compensatory and punitive damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the allegedly unlawful acts of the defendants, the new York Racing Association, Inc. ("NYRA") and certain of its officials, in excluding plaintiff from NYRA's racetracks. Defendants have moved under Rule 56(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff's complaint. Plaintiff has cross-moved for partial summary judgment holding defendants liable for depriving plaintiff of due process rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. For the reasons that follow, defendants' motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint is granted, and plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment is denied.

 Background

 Defendant NYRA is a private organization incorporated under the New York Racing, Pari-Mutuel Wagering and Breeding Law, § 202 (McKinney 1984). NYRA owns and operates three racetracks in the State of New York under a franchise granted by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board (the "Board").

 This action arises from an incident which occurred at one of NYRA's racetracks on June 22, 1981, during which plaintiff was allegedly found to be in possession of an illegal electrical device used to affect the speed or conduct of a race horse. As a result of this incident, NYRA denied plaintiff access to its tracks. The facts surrounding this incident and plaintiff's expulsion form NYRA's tracks are summarized in a previously issued opinion of the New York Court of Appeals. See Saumell v. New York State Racing Association, 58 N.Y.2d 231, 460 N.Y.S.2d 763, 447 N.E.2d 706 (1983).

 Plaintiff commenced the earlier state court proceeding by filing a petition under Article 78 of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules ("CPLR"), seeking injunctive relief, but not damages, against both NYRA and the Board. The petition alleged that NYRA's actions in purportedly revoking plaintiff's jockey license "divested [plaintiff] of rights guaranteed me by the Federal Constitution and continues to divest, in direct violation of 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 . . . " Exh. A to the Aff. of Thomas F. Curnin. The proceeding culminated in a decision of the New York Court of Appeals, which held that NYRA's exclusion of plaintiff from its facilities without a prior hearing violated plaintiff's due process rights guaranteed by the Federal Constitution. The court affirmed an order of the Appellate Division enjoining NYRA from taking any action impeding plaintiff's rights under his jockey license, but modified the Appellate Division's order so as to permit NYRA "to proceed with a hearing as to a basis for exclusion if it be so advised." 58 N.Y.2d at 243.

 Discussion

 The primary question raised by these motions for summary judgment is what preclusive effect should be accorded to the decision of the Court of Appeals in the prior proceeding between plaintiff and NYRA. Defendants argue that the prior proceedings should be accorded full preclusive effect, thereby requiring a determination that this action is barred by res judicata (also known as "claim preclusion"). Plaintiff contends that under the doctrine of collateral estoppel (also known as "issue preclusion"), the prior proceedings bar only relitigation of the question of liability in this case, permitting the action to proceed for the purpose of fixing damages under § 1983.

 The Supreme Court recently stated that § 1983 "does not override state preclusion law and guarantee [an individual] a right to proceed to a judgment in state court on her state claims and then turn to federal court for adjudication of her federal claims." Migra v. Warren City School District Board of Education, 465 U.S. 75, 104 S. Ct. 892, 898, 79 L. Ed. 2d 56 (1984). The court held that a "state court judgment in this litigation has the same claim preclusive effect in federal court that the judgment would have in the . . . state courts." Id. Under Migra, this Court must determine what preclusive effect New York state courts would accord to the prior Article 78 proceeding.

 In O'Brien v. City of Syracuse, 54 N.Y.2d 353, 357, 429 N.E.2d 1158, 1159, 445 N.Y.S.2d 687, 688 (1981), the New York Court of Appeals set forth New York's law of res judicata:

 
This State has adopted the transactional analysis approach in deciding res judicata issues . . . Under this address [sic], once a claim is brought to a final conclusion, all other claims arising out of the same trans- action or series of transactions are barred, even if based upon different theories or if seeking a different remedy.

 This approach has been described as a "pragmatic test, which sees a claim or cause of action as 'coterminus with the transaction regardless of the number of substantive theories or variant forms of relief.'" Smith v. Russell Sage College, 54 N.Y.2d 185, 192, 429 N.E.2d 746, 749, 445 N.Y.S.2d 68, 71 (1981).

 In the present case, the prior action wa a "special proceeding" brought under Article 78 of the CPLR, the required procedure for actions in New York state courts against a "body or officer" of state or local government. CPLR §§ 7801, 7802. Plaintiff concedes that the "prior proceeding concerned the same series of transactions" that form the basis of the present action. P 2, Plaintiff's "Counterstatement & Statement Pursuant to Rule 9." *fn1" However, plaintiff maintains that the damages sought here ...


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