A Pennsylvania state court has declined to intervene in a decision made by the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission, which barred a jockey from participating at a Pennsylvania race track because he allegedly used a device known as a “machine” or “battery,” which is used to shock a horse and make it go faster.
The court reasoned that the decision made by the commission “was based upon a ‘reasoned determination’ that (the jockey’s) presence would be detrimental to the public’s perception of horse racing as a sport is supported by substantial evidence. Additionally, because the detrimental impact of this conduct is a valid concern, the Commission’s decision was not capricious or unreasonable.”
The incident that led to the litigation occurred on June 17, 2003 after the tenth race at the Philadelphia Park Racetrack. The jockey, Orlando Bocachica, had just completed a race and was standing with other jockeys when the group was surrounded by representatives of the Commission and Philadelphia Park. The jockeys were searched for a “battery.” While none was immediately found, the officials did find one later that had been discarded in the same area that the jockeys were searched.
Six days later, Bocachica was questioned by Commission and Philadelphia Park officials. He was questioned for two hours. During that time, he asked if he could leave to take his pregnant wife to an appointment with her doctor. However, he was not allowed to leave. Bocachica claimed that in “a misguided effort to appease his questioners so that they would let him leave, he admitted to using a battery ‘in the mornings’ over two years ago in New Jersey and Puerto Rico but never in a race and never at Philadelphia Park.” The track seized the jockey’s license on June 26.
He appealed the ruling to the Commission, claiming that he did not know what he was signing and that he was never read his Miranda rights. The Commission denied his request, noting that it had received anonymous tips that the jockey was using a battery, which sparked the search. It also found the jockey’s past testimony to be not credible.
Putting the jockey’s actions in context, it wrote that “engaging in that type of prohibited conduct most certainly undermines the integrity of the sport,” as well as raises “major” questions about “the safety and health of the horses.” The Commission upheld the track’s ruling.
On appeal, the jockey argued that: First, “that agents of the Commission and the TRPB who questioned him should be deemed to be state actors/law enforcement officers for purposes of considering the application of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694, 86 S. Ct. 1602 (1996).” Second, “even if Miranda does not apply and his statement is taken as true, his actions are too remote in time and place to have a detrimental impact on the public’s perception of horse racing in Pennsylvania and the Commission’s decision was arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable.”
The court promptly dispensed with the argument that the jockey’s confession had been illegally obtained. “Because Bocachica’s ejectment from Philadelphia Park by the Bensalem Racing Association was not a criminal proceeding, nor has he ever been subjected to a criminal proceeding because of his ‘confession,’ Bocachica’s Fifth Amendment right to protection against self-incrimination was not implicated in this case,” it wrote. “Accordingly, the Commission and TRPB agents were not required to read him his Miranda rights.”
Next, the court looked at whether the behavior constituted “a detrimental impact on the public’s perception of horse racing in Pennsylvania and that the Commission’s decision was arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable.” A key element with this decision was that the Commission does not require that “allegations of impropriety be proven but [only] that the track’s determination be reasonable,” that is, based upon a “reasoned determination” that the employee’s presence there would be “detrimental” to the public perception of horse racing as a sport. Kulick v. Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission, 115 Pa.Commonwealth Ct. 408, 412, 540 A.2d 620, 622, petition for allowance of appeal denied, 520 Pa. 620, 554 A.2d 512 (1988).
Additionally, “because the detrimental impact of this conduct is a valid concern, the Commission’s decision was not capricious or unreasonable,” wrote the court. Orlando Bocachica, v. Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission, No. 1666 C.D. 2003
Pa.Commonwealth Ct., 1/16/04
Attorneys of Record: (for plaintiff) Alan Pincus, Las Vegas, NV. (for defendant) Jorge M. Augusto, Harrisburg. (for intervenors) Andrew J. Kramer and Paulyne A. Gardner, Norristown.