The young attorney's name was Bryan Taylor, and he went on to become a state senator from Prattville. Did Taylor have any expertise on gaming or the constitutional issues that surround it? The answer appears to be no. Was Taylor's analysis on target? Quite a few knowledgeable individuals apparently do not think so.
Based on some of his most recent legal handiwork, Taylor's abilities as a lawyer might be described as questionable, at best. We are referring to a defamation lawsuit Taylor recently filed against the Alabama Political Reporter (APR) Web site and its editors, Bill and Susan Britt. We already have shown that Taylor, as a public official, has almost no chance to win such a case, under the law. That he filed it anyway means the Britts might have a valid counterclaim for abuse of process--and they also might have grounds to seek costs under the Alabama Litigation Accountability Act.
Why would Riley spend millions of taxpayer dollars to attack facilities--in many instances, they had operated legally under constitutional amendments for roughly five years--based on Bryan Taylor's word? Was Bob Riley a rotten steward of public funds?
Those are just a few of the troubling questions raised by Josh Moon's recent investigative article for the Montgomery Advertiser. Here is how Moon describes Taylor's role in Bob Riley's crusade against bingo at non-Indian facilities:
Riley said a visit from state Sen. Charles Bishop, who complained about fly-by-night bingo parlors opening in Walker County, prompted him to assign a young staff attorney, Bryan Taylor, to look into the legality of it all.
Taylor returned a few days later with a message that Riley said surprised him: "(Taylor) says, 'they're all illegal — all of them.' "
Taylor explained that a 2006 Alabama Supreme Court ruling, which prevented electronic bingo games to be played in Birmingham, included a broad definition of the term "slot machines" that was first presented by former Justice Sue Bell Cobb in 1997. That definition essentially states that when a constitutional amendment fails to define the term "bingo," then it means the "ordinary game of bingo."
Did Taylor have it right? Not necessarily, according to Moon:
Many believe it was a bit of a stretch, since the ruling in that 1997 case also made it clear that an amendment and its intentions could alter the definition of bingo. But Taylor said the basis of the argument was formed: "The court was saying that it was less about form and more about substance. If it looks like a slot machine and acts like a slot machine, it's a slot machine."
It's not clear exactly to which 2006 case Taylor is referring. Our research indicates the most likely case is styled Barber v. Jefferson County Racing Association, 960 So. 2d 599 (Ala. Sup. Ct., 2006). We can find no information in that ruling that would support what Taylor allegedly told Riley--that all bingo facilities in the state are illegal. If there is another 2006 opinion that supports Taylor's analysis, we haven't found it yet.
Was Bryan Taylor the only lawyer who came to the conclusion that e-bingo was illegal throughout the state? Nope. A major Birmingham law firm also came to that conclusion--not long after it had proclaimed e-bingo machines at one of the state's best-known casinos, VictoryLand, were . . . legal.
We're not making this up. One minute lawyers connected to Bob Riley find e-bingo machines are legal; the next minute, they find them illegal.
A rational human being could be confused, but we know this much for sure:
* According to published reports, Bob Riley funneled some $10 million to Bradley Arant, where the former governor's son-in-law, Rob Campbell, is a lawyer. That was just during the final two years of the Riley administration, when the governor hired the firm to help lead his anti-bingo crusade. Perhaps that had an influence on the firm's decision to switch its verdict from "legal" to "illegal" on e-bingo machines in Alabama?
What's really going on? Is this controversy, which began to heavily percolate in 2008, really about legal issues or something else? In Bryan Taylor's defense, was he only doing what his boss told him to do--concoct an analysis that found e-bingo illegal, regardless of what the law or facts showed? Does the controversy exist only because Bob Riley and his associates have been bought and sold for Indian gaming interests--with the help of GOP felons Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon? Does the fact that Scanlon once worked for Riley tell us all we need to know about the former govenor's real motives?
(To be continued)