BARRY V. BARCHI, 443 U. S. 55 (1979)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Barry v. Barchi, 443 U.S. 55 (1979)

Barry v. Barchi

No. 77-803

Argued November 7, 1978

Decided June 25, 1979

443 U.S. 55


The New York State Racing and Wagering Board (Board), which is empowered to license horse trainers participating in harness horse-race meets in New York, has issued regulations specifying the standards of conduct that a trainer must satisfy to retain his license. The trainer's responsibility rules provide that, when a pos-trace test of a horse reveals the presence of drugs, it is to be presumed -- subject to rebuttal -- that the drug was either administered by the trainer or resulted from his negligence in failing adequately to protect against such occurrence. Under a New York statute (§ 8022), a suspended licensee is entitled to a post-suspension hearing, but the statute specifies no time in which the hearing must be held, affords the Board as long as 30 days after the hearing in which to issue a final order, and ordains that,

"[p]ending such hearing and final determination thereon, the action of the [Board] in . . . suspending a license . . . shall remain in full force and effect."

Pursuant to the trainer's responsibility rules and the evidentiary presumption created therein, the Board summarily suspended appellee's trainer's license for 15 days on the basis of a pos-trace test that revealed a drug in the system of a horse trained by him. Without resorting to the § 8022 procedures, appellee filed suit in Federal District Court, challenging the constitutionality of § 8022 and the evidentiary presumption under the Board's rules. The court upheld the presumption, but concluded that § 8022 was unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, since it permitted the State to sanction a trainer without either a pre-suspension or a prompt post-suspension hearing, and that § 8022 also violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, since it prohibited a stay of a license suspension pending administrative review, whereas, under the laws applicable to thoroughbred racing, suspensions could be stayed pending appeal.


1. Section 8022 does not violate the Due Process Clause by authorizing summary suspensions without a pre-suspension hearing. Although

Page 443 U. S. 56

appellee has.a property interest in his license under state law sufficient to invoke due process protections, and although the magnitude of a trainer's interest in avoiding suspension is substantial, the State also has an important interest in assuring the integrity of racing carried on under its auspices. In these circumstances, the State is entitled to impose an interim suspension, pending a prompt judicial or administrative hearing that will definitely determine the issues, whenever it has satisfactorily established probable cause to believe that a horse has been drugged and that a trainer has been at least negligent in connection with the drugging. Here, the State adduced the assertion of its testing official as proof that appellee's horse had been drugged, and, at the interim suspension stage, an expert's affirmance would appear sufficiently reliable to satisfy constitutional requirements. As for appellee's culpability, in light of the Board's trainer's responsibility rules, the inference, predicated on the fact of drugging, that appellee was at least negligent will be accepted as defensible, and the State will not be put to further pre-suspension proof that appellee had not complied with the applicable rules. Pp. 443 U. S. 63-66.

2. However, appellee was not assured a sufficiently timely post-suspension hearing, and § 8022 was unconstitutionally applied in this respect. The statutory provision for an administrative hearing, neither on its face nor as applied, assured prompt proceeding and prompt disposition of the outstanding issues between appellee and the State, it being as likely as not that appellee and others subject to relatively brief suspensions would have no opportunity to put the State to its proof until they have suffered the full penalty imposed. Once suspension has been imposed, the trainer's interest in a speedy resolution of the controversy becomes paramount, and there is little or no state interest in an appreciable delay in going forward with a full hearing. P. 443 U. S. 66.

3. The State's prohibition of administrative stays pending a hearing in the harness racing context without a like prohibition in thoroughbred racing does not deny harness racing trainers equal protection of the laws. The legislative history of § 8022 makes clear that it and other provisions applicable to harness racing resulted from a legislative conclusion that harness racing should be subject to strict regulation, and appellee has not demonstrated that the acute problems attending harness racing also plague thoroughbred racing, and that both types of racing should be treated identically. Also the procedural mechanism selected to mitigate the threats to the public interest arising in the harness racing context is rationally related to the achievement of that goal. Pp. 443 U. S. 67-68.

436 F.Supp. 775, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

Page 443 U. S. 57

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in part, in which STEWART, MARSHALL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 443 U. S. 68.

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