Simms v. Ariz. Racing Comm’n (2/23/2021)

March 15, 2021

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One holds that an interested third party in administrative proceedings has standing to appeal a racing licensing decision as a “person aggrieved.”

This case represents one part of a series of disputes related to a racetrack owned by two brothers.  Here, one brother (the “licensee”) ultimately had his racing license revoked by the Arizona Racing Commission, and the other brother (the “third party”) participated in various proceedings and encouraged the revocation.

The path toward the first brother’s license being revoked was winding.  In 2012, the licensee’s application for renewal was denied by the Arizona Department of Racing.  In 2015, after a hearing on that decision, an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) decided the licensee was qualified to be licensed.  The ALJ’s decision became effective when the Arizona Department of Gaming, in which the Department of Racing had become a division, declined to reject or modify it.  The third party appealed to the Arizona Racing Commission, which ultimately revoked his brother’s license. 

On appeal to superior court, the licensee argued that the third party lacked standing because he was not a “person aggrieved” under the Commission’s regulations.  The superior court agreed.

The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the third party was a “person aggrieved,” consistent with the plain meaning of that term.  Although the phrase “person aggrieved” is not defined by Commission regulations, the Court reasoned that a broad definition to include third parties is appropriate because (1) it is consistent with the Commission’s plenary authority in this area and (2) the Commission could have used the phrase “applicant aggrieved” or a similar phrase if it wanted to limit the right to appeal to only those whose licenses are adversely affected.

Judge Weinzweig authored the opinion in which Judges Perkins and Morse joined.