has cost Alabama taxpayers almost $895,000 since 2011, according to a report last week. That figure will rise considerably this week because of a forfeiture trial in which the VictoryLand Casino seeks the return of equipment the attorney general's office seized in February 2013.
The trial began yesterday before Montgomery County Circuit Judge William Shashy. Why is the trial in Montgomery when VictoryLand is in Macon County? That's because Macon County Judge Thomas Young correctly denied Attorney General Luther Strange a search warrant, so Strange asked the Alabama Supreme Court to force Young off the case.
The All-Republican Supreme Court, which has routinely violated its own precedent to allow raids of non-Indian gaming facilities, granted Strange's request. That's why Shashy, who was appointed to the bench by former Republican Governor Fob James, is hearing the case. Strange wants Shashy to allow his office to destroy some 1,615 machines and $223,000 in cash that was seized from Victoryland, the facility that long has been run by Milton McGregor.
By the way, the recent report about the cost of the anti-gambling crusade since 2011 doesn't come close to the actual figure. As we reported here, the Birmingham law firm Bradley Arant sucked up $10 million of state dollars during the final two years of Governor Bob Riley's tenure, when the administration largely was fighting non-Indian gaming. Associated Press reported that Riley paid Bradley Arant more than $536,000 for work related to the anti-gambling task force. (Riley's son-in-law, Rob Campbell just happens to be a partner at Bradley Arant.) The true cost to Alabama taxpayers numbers way into the millions.
Why do we say in our headline that money spent on the bingo battle is being "wasted." Why do we put quotation marks around the term "illegal"? The basic answer is simple; anyone with minimal reading-comprehension skills can figure it out.
Is it a coincidence that Riley opposes non-Indian gaming, considering that he benefited from $20 million of Indian gaming funds, much of it funneled through GOP felon Jack Abramoff? Is it coincidence that Riley's son, Birmingham lawyer Rob Riley, helped funnel $100,000 of Poarch Creek Indian funds to an organization supposedly designed to fight gaming on all fronts? Is it a coincidence that Luther Strange received $100,000 in campaign funds from the Poarch Creek Indians?
The answer to all of these questions likely is no. And a reasonable person could conclude that all of these transactions involved a "quid pro quo," meaning the politicos agreed to shut down the tribes' gaming competitors in exchange for campaign cash. If proven, that is the kind of illegal deal that can send a public figure to federal prison for years. If proven that the Alabama Supreme Court made it happen via a string of unlawful rulings . . . well, one can only imagine how Chief Justice Roy Moore and his colleagues might look in orange jump suits.
We're not sure what will happen in Judge Shashy's courtroom this week (and perhaps into next week). But it doesn't really matter because we've already proven in a lengthy series of posts that electronic bingo is legal in Macon County. (For the record, our research shows electronic bingo also is legal in Houston County; we have not studied the constitutional amendments for Greene and Lowndes counties, but our guess is that e-bingo is legal there, too.)
By the way, you can check out our series of posts on the Macon County issue here.
Why do we say the issue is simple? Well, the gist of the matter is this: Strange's main argument is that the VictoryLand machines violate state statutes that outlaw slot machines and illegal gambling devices. A simple concept of state law, however, is this: A constitutional amendment trumps a state statute.
Chorba-Lee Scholarship Fund v. Sheriff Mike Hale, et al, 60 So. 3d 269 (2010) is just one of many cases in which the Alabama Supreme Court has spelled this out.
'Undeniably, the legislature cannot enact a statute that conflicts with the Constitution, that is, that prohibits that which is permitted by the Constitution or that permits that which is prohibited by the Constitution.'" Opinion of the Justices No. 373, 795 So.2d 630, 632 (Ala.2001) (quoting City of Birmingham v. Graffeo, 551 So.2d 357, 361-62 (Ala. 1989)).
We will provide more details in an upcoming post. But you can see why we say this involves a simple matter of law. You can also see why we say the Alabama Supreme Court has repeatedly violated its own precedent.
Who will be the winner in the Montgomery courtroom? Our first guess is that Judge Shashy already has received instructions to rule against VictoryLand--and he will do just that. If Shasy proves to be competent and honest, Strange will appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court--and it will rule in the AG's favor.
The winner might be in doubt, but Alabama taxpayers are the clear losers. Millions of their dollars are being wasted on a legal battle that never should have started in the first place.