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Acra Turf Club, LLC v. Zanzuccki

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

October 28, 2014

ACRA TURF CLUB, LLC, et al., Plaintiffs,


DOUGLAS E. ARPERT, Magistrate Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on a Motion to Intervene, or, in the alternative, for leave to file an Amicus Brief, by the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association ("NJTHA") and the Standardbred Breeders' and Owners' Association of New Jersey ("SBOA") (collectively the "Horsemen") [Dkt. No. 101].[1] Plaintiffs and Defendant both oppose the Horsemen's Motion [Dkt. Nos. 108 and 106 respectively]. For the reasons set forth below, the Horsemen's Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.


A. Brief Factual Background

This matter arises out of New Jersey's Off-Track Account Wagering Act ("OTAWA") and the Participation Agreement ("Agreement") between Plaintiffs and the State of New Jersey, which afforded Plaintiffs ownership, economic, and operational rights in off-track wagering facilities. Plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment that three amendments which were subsequently enacted; (1) 2011 N.J. Laws 26, 2011 P.L. ch.26 (the "Forfeiture Amendment"); (2) 2011 N.J. Laws 205, 2011 P.L. ch.205, ยง 2 (the "Deposit Amendment"); and (3) 2011 N.J. Laws 228, 2011 P.L. ch.228 (the "Pilot Program Act")[2] (collectively "the Amendments"), violate Plaintiffs' constitutional rights under the Contracts Clause, the Fifth Amendment, and the Takings Clause, and violate Plaintiffs' Equal Protection and Substantive Due Process rights.

During the pendency of this matter, the State Attorney General stayed enforcement of the OTAWA, and, according to the Horsemen, has taken the position that the New Jersey Racing Commission (the "Commission") must work with industry leaders to develop a solution to the present problems. The Horsemen claim that because the Commission wants the horseracing industry, including the Horsemen, to develop a solution, "it has failed to protect the interests that the New Jersey Legislature has granted to the NJTHA to develop off-track wagering in New Jersey, and to obtain a right to other off-track wagering permits that [P]laintiffs fail to demonstrate progress to develop." Dkt. No. 101, Horsemen's Br. at p. 1-2.

B. Procedural History

Relevant to the present Motion, NJTHA filed a Motion to Intervene and Dismiss the Complaint on July 27, 2012 [Dkt. No. 36], which was joined by SBOA on August 7, 2012 [Dkt. No. 39]. By Order dated August 13, 2012, the Court struck the elements of the Horsemen's Motion which sought to dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint, finding that "unless and until the Court grants NJTHA and SBOA leave to intervene, their motions are premature." Dkt. No. 41 at p. 2. Subsequently, the Court denied the Motion to Intervene [Dkt. No. 72]. On June 27, 2013, NJTHA filed an appeal of the Court's decision with the Third Circuit [Dkt. No. 76]. The Third Circuit affirmed the Court's denial of the Motion to Intervene on March 31, 2014 [Dkt. 88]. The Horsemen filed the present Motion to Intervene on August 9, 2014 [Dkt. No. 101].


The Horsemen argue that although their first Motion to Intervene was denied, "a change in [Defendant's] legal position demonstrates that intervention is now warranted." Horsemen's Br. at p. 1. In opposition, Plaintiffs and Defendant argue that the Horsemen's Motion to Intervene has already been decided by this Court, and is improper under the law of the case doctrine, and that the Horsemen's interests continue to be adequately represented by the Attorney General.

"The law of the case doctrine acts to preclude review of those legal issues that the court in a prior appeal actually decided, either expressly or by implication." Pendleton v. Nepa Cmty. Fed. Credit Union, 303 Fed.Appx. 89, 90 (3d Cir. 2008) (citing In re City of Philadelphia Litig., 158 F.3d 711, 718 (3d Cir. 1998)). Under the "law of the case" doctrine, "when a court decides upon a rule of law, that decision should continue to govern the same issues in subsequent states of the same litigation." In re Pharmacy Benefit Managers Antitrust Litig., 582 F.3d 432, 439 (3d Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). "This rule of practice promotes the finality and efficiency of the judicial process by protecting against the agitation of settled issues." In re Continental Airlines, Inc., 279 F.3d 226, 233 (3d Cir. 2002) (quoting Christianson v. Colt Indus. Operating Corp., 486 U.S. 800, 816 (1988)).

However, because the law of the case doctrine "is a rule of discretion rather than a limit on authority, it does not apply in extraordinary circumstances.'" Schneyder v. Smith, 653 F.3d 313, 332 (3d Cir. 2011) (citations omitted). Extraordinary circumstances "include situations in which: (1) new evidence is available; (2) a supervening new law has been announced; or (3) the earlier decision was clearly erroneous and would create manifest injustice." Id. at 332-33 (citing Pub. Interest Research Grp. V. Magnesium Elektron, 123 F.3d 111, 116 (3d Cir. 1997)).

A. Intervention as of Right

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a), "[o]n timely motion, the court must permit anyone to intervene who: (1) is given an unconditional right to intervene by a federal statute; or (2) claims an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action, and is so situated that disposing of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the ...

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