153 N.Y. 449, Grannan v. Westchester Racing Ass'n.

Citation:153 N.Y. 449
Party Name:CHARLES R. GRANNAN, Respondent, v. WESTCHESTER RACING ASSOCIATION, NEW YORK JOCKEY CLUB and AUGUST BELMONT et al., Individually and as Stewards of THE JOCKEY CLUB, Appellants.
Case Date:October 05, 1897
Court:New York Court of Appeals

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153 N.Y. 449




New York Court of Appeal

October 5, 1897

Argued June 21, 1897.

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Julien T. Davies and Charles Francis Stone for appellants. The provisions of chapter 1042, Laws of 1895, do not afford any basis for the plaintiff's claim. (Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3; Penal Code, § § 381, 383; People v. King, 110 N.Y. 427.) The interest of the public in the property of a racing association is qualified by the necessity that the public submit to the reasonable rules and regulations of the jockey club. (L. 1895, ch. 570; Thomson v. U. P. R. R. Co., 4 Dill. 322; Jencks v. Coleman, 2 Sumn. 221; Hall v. De Cuir, 95 U.S. 485; Brown v. M. & C. R. Co., 7 Fed. Rep. 51.) A person in the situation of this plaintiff has no right, inchoate or other, entitling him to admission to the grounds of a racing association. ( Rex v. Benchers, etc., 4 B. & C. 853; Parcel v. Daly, 19 Abb. [ N. C.] 301.) The stewards of the jockey club, to whom, for the conservation of the interest of legitimate racing, the widest discretionary powers of regulation have been committed in the first instance by the legislature, may enforce fairly and justly a proper and reasonable rule of racing. ( Corrigan v. C. I. J. Club, 20 N.Y.S. 437; Walker v. R. R. Co., 5 Ohio, 38; Cooper v. Williams, 4 Ohio, 253; High on Injunctions, § 763.)

Joseph S. Auerbach for appellants. The jockey club, under the authority conferred upon it by the legislature, may exclude an offender against its rules from all race courses licensed by

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the state racing commission. ( People ex rel. v. Grant, 126 N.Y. 473; Regina v. Cockburn, 4 El. & B. 82; State v. Van Du Sluis, 42 Minn. 129.)The legislature having delegated to the jockey club the power in the first instance, subject to revision by the state racing commission, to establish rules for racing, the reasonableness of any rule is presumed. ( Slattery v. Naylor, L. R. [ 13 App. Cas.] 449; State v. Freeman, 38 N.H. 428; Regina v. Edmonds, 4 El. & B. 993; 123 N.Y. 111.)

Benjamin F. Tracy for respondent. In this state the conducting of horse races is a public function and horse races are a public amusement, in which every citizen, as a matter of right, is entitled to participate. (L. 1802, ch. 44; Van Valkenburgh v. Torrey, 7 Cow. 252; Gibbons v. Gouverneur, 1 Den. 170; L. 1821, ch. 193; Penal Code, § 352; L. 1854, ch. 269; L. 1857, ch. 558; L. 1860, ch. 523; L. 1865, ch. 155; L. 1870, ch. 131; L. 1887, ch. 479; L. 1895, ch. 570; Schuman v. Fort Wayne, 127 Ind. 109; Morawetz on Priv. Corp. § 1114; Munn v. Illinois, 94 U.S. 113.) Under the Civil Rights Act of New York the Morris Park race course is a place of public amusement which every citizen, against whom there is no reasonable ground of objection, has the right to attend. (L. 1895, ch. 1042; Comm. v. Quinn, 164 Mass. 11; People v. King, 110 N.Y. 418; People v. Budd, 117 N.Y. 1; Morawetz on Priv. Corp. § 1114; 94 U.S. 113.) The action of the stewards of the jockey club in ruling the plaintiff off the turf, without a hearing, was unlawful and void, because there was no rule authorizing such action. ( Wachtel v. N.W. & O. B. Society, 84 N.Y. 28; Vatable v. N.Y. L. E. & W. R. R. Co., 96 N.Y. 49; De Gellert v. Pool, 18 N.Y. S. R. 1008; Wilson v. Wall, 6 Wall. 83; Wilde v. Gibson, 1 H. L. Cas. 605; Kountze v. Kennedy, 147 N.Y. 124; Derry v. Peek, L. R. [ 14 App. Cas.] 337.) The right of a person charged with an offense, conviction of which may deprive him of his property or of privileges, to be notified of such charge and to have a hearing thereon depends not upon charter or

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by-law, but is guaranteed to him as a matter of common law and common justice. ( Murdock v. Phillips Academy, 12 Pick. 243; Innis v. Wylie, 1 C. & K. 257; Wood v. Wood, L. R. [9 Exch.] 190; White v. Brownell, 2 Daly, 329; Fritz v. Muck, 62 How. Pr. 69; Watchel v. N.W. & O. B. Society, 84 N.Y. 28; Fisher v. Keene, L. R. [ 11 Ch. Div.] 353; Labouchere v. Earl of Wharncliffe, L. R. [ 13 Ch. Div.] 346; Loubat v. Le Roy, 40 Hun, 546; People ex rel. v. Medical Socy., 32 N.Y. 187.) The first question certified to this court by the Appellate Division should be answered in the negative. ( Atwater v. D., L. & W. R. R. Co., 48 N. J. L. 55; Dillon on Mun. Corp. [ 3d ed.] § 423; People v. Marx, 99 N.Y. 377; Boyd v. U. S., 116 U.S. 616; G., C. & S. F. R. Co. v. Ellis, 165 U.S. 150; Butchers' Union Co. v. Crescent City Co., 111 U.S. 746; Curran v. Galen, 152 N.Y. 33.) The second question certified to this court by the Appellate Division should be answered in the negative. (Penal Code, § § 2, 7; People ex rel. v. Common Council of Troy, 82 N.Y. 575; In re Manning, 139 N.Y. 446.) The jurisdiction of a court of equity to restrain the enforcement of the resolution of the stewards in the present case clearly exists. ( Hutchinson v. Lawrence, 67 How. Pr. 38; White v. Brownell, 2 Daly, 329; Olery v. Brown, 51 How. Pr. 92; People ex rel. v. Alpha Lodge, 13 Misc. 677; Atwater v. D., L. & W. R. R. Co., 48 N. J. L. 55; Beddow v. Beddow, L. R. [ 9 Ch. Div.] 89, 92; Q. H. C. G. M. Co. v. Beall, L. R. [ 20 Ch. Div.] 501; Bonnard v. Perryman, L. R. [ 2 Ch. Div. 1891], 269, 283; Monson v. Tussauds, L. R. [ 1 Q. B. D. 1894], 671; State v. Patterson, 37 S.W. 478.)


To a clear and proper comprehension of this case as presented, it is necessary at the outset to understand precisely what is before us and how far we are authorized to pass upon the various questions determined by the Special Term and learned Appellate Division.

Section 190 of the Code of Civil Procedure confers upon the Court of Appeals jurisdiction to review every actual determination

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made by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, where the Appellate Division allows the same, and certifies that one or more questions of law have arisen which, in its opinion, ought to be reviewed by the Court of Appeals, and it expressly provides that in such a case the appeal brings up for review the question or questions so certified, and no other. As this court has no jurisdiction except such as is conferred upon it by statute ( Szuchy v. Hillside Coal & Iron Co., 150 N.Y. 219), it is manifest that it has no authority to determine any of the questions involved except those certified for that purpose, and, consequently, several of the questions argued by the respondent's counsel are not before us. Whether the plaintiff had proper notice of the hearing before the jockey club, or whether his violation of its rules was established by sufficient or competent evidence, are not before this court, as neither of those questions was certified for its determination.

When examined alone, the matters certified appear to be merely abstract questions, such as the court will not decide. But, although they are not as definite and clear as they should have been, yet, when considered in the light of the facts and proceedings shown by the record, we are inclined to the view that there is one question that was involved in the decision of the Appellate Division which is sufficiently presented.

The first question is vague, uncertain and unsatisfactory. A question certified should be a distinct point or proposition of law, clearly stated, so that it can be definitely answered without regard to other issues in the case and should be a question of law only. ( Jewell v. Knight, 123 U.S. 426, 432; Dennistoun v. Stewart, 18 How. [ U. S.] 565; Fire Ins. Assn. v. Wickham, 128 U.S. 426.) If a question is stated in such broad and indefinite terms that it will admit of one answer under one set of circumstances, and a different answer under another ( Enfield v. Jordan, 119 U.S. 680, 691), or if it presents merely an abstract proposition, and no facts are disclosed in the record which show that it arose in the case, the court should decline to answer it. ( Havemeyer v. Iowa County, 3 Wall. [U. S.] 294, 303.)

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These are the rules established by the Supreme Court of the United States in cases certified to that court upon a division of opinion by the judges below, and state, as we think, the correct rules which should be observed by the Appellate Division in certifying questions to this court under the provisions of section 190 of the Code. A careful study of this case has led us to the conclusion that the learned Appellate Division intended to present to this court for its determination the question, first, whether a racing association, organized under the law of 1895, can arbitrarily and capriciously, without reason or sufficient excuse, exclude a person from attending its races who offers to comply with the reasonable rules of the association. Such being its purpose, while perhaps it might be answered in the negative, still it clearly falls within the condemnation of the foregoing rules. Moreover, the decision of the Appellate Division shows that that question was not determined by it, but that the case was decided upon other grounds, which are presented by the second question. Under these circumstances, we think the jurisdiction of this court to pass upon the first question is at least doubtful, and that it ought not to be answered.


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