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Wright v. New Jersey Racing Commission

Decided: June 18, 1942.

SPENCER A. WRIGHT, SR., MARY C. WIGHT, CLARA MESSMER AND MARCUS M. MESSMER, APPLICANTS,
v.
NEW JERSEY RACING COMMISSION, FRED H. RYAN, SECRETARY OF NEW JERSEY RACING COMMISSION SECRETARY OF NEW JERSEY RACING COMMISSION, AND GARDEN STATE RACING ASSOCIATION, RESPONDENTS



On appeal for writ of certiorari.

For the applicants, S. Rusling Leap.

For New Jersey State Racing Commission and Frank H. Ryan, secretary, Vincent S. Haneman.

For Garden State Racing Commission, George H. Stanger.

Before Justices Case, Donges and Colie.

Case

The opinion of the court was delivered by

CASE, J. The application is for a writ of certiorari to review the proceedings of the New Jersey State Racing Commission in granting a permit to the Garden State Racing Association to hold meetings in Delaware Township, Camden

County, New Jersey, from July 18th, 1942, to September 12th, 1942, inclusive. The argument is, first and primarily, that the legislature, in order to give efficacious authority to any board or other body to permit pari mutuel betting at race tracks, must provide for the legalizing of the race track at which the betting is to be permitted and that the legislature in the pertinent legislation has not done so; second and, according to the argument, less essentially, that the statute specifies hours that do not conform to the constitutional provision.

It is first contended on behalf of the respondents that the persons who are applying for the writ do not possess the necessary status. We think otherwise. The petitioners are, in our opinion, qualified to seek the proposed review. It is next said that the applicants have been guilty of gross laches in seeking this prerogative writ; and we find substance in this contention.

The permit to Garden State Racing Association was issued November 6th, 1941. Every act against which the applicants would cast suspicion of illegality occurred on or before that day. The notice of the present application was dated, and the petition and supporting affidavits were drawn and signed on, June 5th, 1942 -- lacking one day of seven months from the concluding act in that chain of events which the applicants attack. Forthwith after the issuance of the permit construction of the racing plant was begun. The construction work was obvious. First the grading was done. The erection of buildings followed. The first buildings to be erected were fourteen stables, each containing 58 stalls. After the construction of the immense stables had been commenced, work was started on the grandstand and clubhouse, a structure 700 feet in length and in part four stories in height. Huge quantities of materials were delivered at the site and the employment of men ran as high as between 700 and 800 at one time. All of this was done in full view of the public and specifically of the applicants, who reside in the neighborhood. Photographs of the large covered grandstand show that even the seats have been installed. Applicants stood by and watched this enterprise reach the point where $1,250,000

had been expended and the racing plant was 95 per cent. completed before they came into court to test the validity of that which, to their contemporaneous knowledge, transpired seven months and more ago. They seek to explain this long and expensive delay by saying that no betting has yet been conducted and that news items that the pari mutuel betting machines were about to be actually installed did not appear in the public press until a few days ago. But they now know no more than they have constantly known. There has never been doubt, from the time of the introduction of the constitutional amendment in the legislature, that the purpose was to legalize the pari mutuel betting system at race tracks. And it adds nothing to the store of essential knowledge on the part of the applicants or any others who have interest, either pro or con, in ...


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