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Deluna v. Delaware Harness Racing Commission

United States District Court, D. Delaware

October 9, 2019

PERRY DELUNA, Plaintiffs,
DELAWARE HARNESS RACING COMMISSION, BRIAN MANGES, as an individual and in his official capacity as Presiding Judge at Harrington Raceway, BEVERLY STEELE, as an individual and in her official capacity as Chair of the Delaware Harness Racing Commission, Defendants.


          Honorable Maryellen Noreika United States District Judge

         At Wilmington on this 9th day of October 2019:

         On September 24, 2019, Plaintiff Perry Deluna (“Plaintiff” or “Deluna”) sued Defendants the Delaware Harness Racing Commission (“the Commission”), Brian Manges (“Manges”), and Beverly Steele (“Steele”) (collectively, “Defendants”) for violations of the Commerce, Equal Protection, and Due Process Clauses of the United States Constitution. (D.I. 1). Two days later, Plaintiff filed a Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction (“Motion”) with supporting opening brief. (D.I. 4, 5). On October 3, 2019, the Court held a teleconference, heard argument from both sides, and ordered further briefing on Plaintiff's Motion. Subsequently, Defendants filed a response to the Motion on October 4, 2019 (D.I. 15) and Plaintiff replied on October 7, 2019 (D.I. 17). After careful review of all materials submitted by the parties, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff's Motion (D.I. 4) is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a California resident who races horses throughout the country. He is licensed by the Commission to race horses in Delaware. Defendants consist of the Commission, its chair (Steele), and the presiding judge (Manges) of Harrington Raceway (“Harrington”), a racetrack in Delaware. The Motion concerns Plaintiff's June 25, 2019 purchase of a horse at Harrington in what is known as a “claiming race, ” his attempts to race that horse outside of the state of Delaware, and the Commission's efforts to stop and, subsequently, penalize him for doing so.

         A “claiming race” is a race in which horses of similar ability are grouped together and offered for sale at a designated amount. (D.I. 15 at 1-2). Each horse in a particular race is offered for approximately the same price and any licensed owner may “claim” - i.e. purchase - any of the horses by submitting a claim in conformance with the applicable rules.[1] (Id.). The purpose of claiming races, which are apparently held throughout the country, is to ensure competitive racing, foster excitement for the local horse racing community, and strengthen the local horse racing industry. See, e.g., Jamgotchian v. Indiana Horse Racing Comm., 16-2344-WTL-TAB, 2017 WL 4168488, at *1 (S.D. Ind. Sep. 20, 2017); (D.I. 5 at 4; D.I. 15 at 2, 4).

         Delaware, like most other horse-racing states, has rules to regulate claiming races. These include what is colloquially known as a “claiming jail” rule - a provision that, inter alia, places a temporary limitation on where owners may race claimed horses.[2] Delaware's version mandates that horses claimed in the state “shall only be eligible to enter in races in the state of Delaware for a period of 60 days following the date of the claim.” 3 Del. Admin. Code § 501- (“Rule”). Delaware does allow horses to be “paroled” out of claiming jail before their sentence is up but gives power over early release to the track where the horse was claimed. Id.; D.I. 15 at 5. Harrington has a very straightforward and simple rule - it does not grant any claiming jail waivers, without exception. (D.I. 15, Ex. 2).

         On June 25, 2019, Plaintiff, via his authorized agent, claimed the horse “When You Dance” from a race at Harrington. (D.I. 5 at 2; D.I. 15 at 2-3, Ex. 2-3). Included in the purchase paperwork was information regarding the Delaware claiming jail rule as well as a notice of Harrington's no-waiver policy, the latter of which Plaintiff's agent signed in acknowledgement. (D.I. 15, Ex. 2). In accordance with that policy, When You Dance could not race outside Delaware for sixty days following Plaintiff's claim. The next Delaware race for which When You Dance was eligible, however, was not until August 19, 2019. (D.I. 15 at 6; D.I. 17 at 3). Thus, notwithstanding the Delaware rules and Harrington's policy, Plaintiff entered When You Dance in a race in Minnesota taking place on July 7, 2019. (D.I. 5 at 2-3; D.I. 15 at 3, Ex. 4). When he was informed that the horse was ineligible because of Delaware's claiming rules, he attempted to get a waiver from Harrington. (D.I. 5 at 2-3). He was, however, denied the waiver. (Id.). Plaintiff then proceeded to seek out jurisdictions that would not give reciprocity to Delaware's claiming jail rule. (Id.). He found willing partners in Illinois and Kentucky, where he raced When You Dance a total of four times between July 26 and August 18 (once in Illinois and three times in Kentucky). (D.I. 5 at 3; D.I. 15 at 3, Ex. 4).

         Subsequently, the Board of Judges at Harrington notified Deluna that he was accused of violating Rule and that a hearing would take place on August 20, 2019. (D.I. 5 at 3-4; D.I. 15 at 3). At that hearing, Plaintiff apparently did not dispute his culpability, but argued that Rule was unconstitutional and therefore had no force. (D.I. 15 at 3). On August 21, the Board - presided over by Defendant Manges - found Plaintiff guilty, suspended his Delaware license for 60 days, and imposed a $5, 950 fine. (D.I. 5 at 3; D.I. 15 at 3, Ex. 1). Plaintiff requested a stay of the suspension from each of the Board, Steele, and the Commission. (D.I. 5 at 3-4; D.I. 15 at 3). All three denied him. (Id.). He appealed the Board's decision to the Commission, but his suspension and the fine were upheld.[3] (Id.). As a result, Plaintiff asserts that he is barred from racing horses anywhere in the country, as all other states have given reciprocity to the Delaware suspension. (D.I. 5 at 5). Plaintiff's suspension ends on October 19, 2019, and his license will be restored if he pays the fine assessed. (D.I. 17 at 4).

         In late September of 2019, Plaintiff filed his complaint and Motion. He seeks injunctive relief to prevent the enforcement of Rule not just against himself, but “against him or any other licensee of the Delaware Harness Racing Commission.” (D.I. 4 at 2). In short, he seeks an injunction barring the Commission from enforcing Rule at all.


         “Preliminary injunctive relief is an ‘extraordinary' remedy appropriate only in ‘limited circumstances.'” Kos Pharm., Inc. v. Andrx Corp., 369 F.3d 700, 708 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Am. Tel. & Tel. Co. v. Winback & Conserve Program, Inc., 42 F.3d 1421, 1427 (3d Cir. 1994). “It may be granted only when the moving party shows (1) a likelihood of success on the merits; (2) that the movant will suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is denied; (3) that granting preliminary relief will not result in even greater harm to the nonmoving party; and (4) that the public interest favors such relief.” Doe by and through Doe v. Boyertown Area Sch. Dist., 897 F.3d 518, 526 (3d Cir. 2018) (citations and modifications omitted); see also Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008). Movants face a “heavy burden, ” Lane v. New Jersey, 753 Fed. App'x. 129, 131 (3d. Cir. 2018), and must establish entitlement to relief by “clear evidence, ” Boyertown, 897 F.3d at 526; see also Winter, 555 U.S. at 22; Lane, 753 Fed. App'x. at 131 (finding movant “did not meet his heavy burden of showing the District Court that a preliminary injunction was warranted.” (citing Kos Pharm., 369 F.3d at 708; Holland v. Rosen, 895 F.3d 272, 285 (3d Cir. 2018))). Failure to establish any of the elements, especially either of the first two, renders preliminary injunctive relief “inappropriate.” Arrowpoint Capital Corp. v. Arrowpoint Asset Mgmt, LLC, 793 F.3d 313, 319 (quoting NutraSweet Co. v. Vit-Mar Enters., Inc., 176 F.3d 151, 153 (3d Cir. 1999)); see also Jack Guttman, Inc. v. Kopykake Enters., Inc., 302 F.3d 1352, 1356 (Fed. Cir. 2002) (“[A] trial court may . . . deny a motion based on a patentee's failure to show any one of the four factors - especially either of the first two - without analyzing the others.”). A temporary restraining order (“TRO”) is subject to the same standard. E.g., Intercept Pharms., Inc. v. Fiorucci, No. 14-1313-RGA, 2016 WL 6609201, at *1 (D. Del. Jan. 28, 2016); Takeda Pharms. USA, Inc. v. West-Ward Pharm. Corp., No. 14-1268-SLR, 2014 WL 5088690, at *1 (D. Del. Oct. 9, 2014); In Re Cyclobenzaprine, No. 09-2118-SLR, 2011 WL 1980610, at *1 (D. Del. May 20, 2011).


         The Court finds that Plaintiff is not entitled to the extraordinary remedy of injunctive relief because he has failed ...

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