Task Force appeals Macon, Lowndes Co. rulings

The following is a full response from Governor Bob Riley's office on actions relating to Macon County's restraining order and a Birmingham judges' ruling over Lowndes County.

Also included, a response from the "Let Us Vote" Coalition.

MONTGOMERY, AL – John Tyson, Jr., Commander of the Governor's Task Force on Illegal Gambling, filed an appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court Monday morning from the ruling issued last Friday that prevents the Task Force from enforcing Alabama's laws against slot-machine gambling.

Mr. Tyson argued to the Supreme Court that Judge Tom Young's order is a gross abuse of judicial power.

"The ruling that Judge Young issued on Friday is unprecedented and dangerous. Even though the Supreme Court has already told him that he has no authority in a civil case to stop law enforcement officers from enforcing criminal laws, Judge Young thumbed his nose at the Supreme Court and issued an even more sweeping order that prevents seizure of illegal slot machines throughout the State.  The order is a poster child for the corruption that illegal gambling brings to our communities."

Mr. Tyson asked the Supreme Court to issue an emergency stay of Judge Young's order, which if granted would enable the Task Force to resume its efforts to ensure that Alabama's criminal laws are applied equally throughout the State.


Governor Riley and the Task Force also intend to seek immediate appellate review of a ruling issued Monday by the judge overseeing the litigation arising from the raid on the White Hall casino in Lowndes County.  Judge Robert Vance, Jr., who was appointed by Chief Justice Cobb to preside in the two cases arising from that raid, ruled that the Attorney General must approve the actions of the lawyers designated by the Governor to handle the cases.

Governor Riley said these latest lower court rulings, coupled with efforts by local officials and casino owners to stymie law enforcement, fly in the face of what the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled.

"When the Supreme Court speaks, some district attorneys, judges and casinos bosses simply choose not to listen," said Governor Riley. "We will continue to appeal these cases until judges and district attorneys abide by what the Supreme Court has already ruled,"

"Everyone is frustrated with the Attorney General's willingness to let some casino bosses ignore the law, but Judge Vance's order will make the problem worse, not better.  The reason the Task Force exists is to ensure that Alabama's laws against slot-machine gambling are enforced equally in every county," said Governor Riley.  "Judge Vance's ruling will allow the Attorney General to decide in secret where the law will be enforced and where it will not be enforced.  That's a recipe for disaster."

"Judge Vance's ruling represents judicial activism at its worst," said Governor Riley.  "The law of Alabama clearly gives the Governor the authority to designate certain active and retired district attorneys to appear in cases anywhere in the State, but Judge Vance has invented an additional requirement that the Attorney General must give advance approval before they can participate in such cases.  That may be what Judge Vance thinks the law should be, but that is not what the law is.  Judge Vance has clearly exceeded his authority in legislating from the bench."

John Tyson also commented on Judge Vance's ruling.  Mr. Tyson said, "Everyone in Alabama who believes in the rule of law should be frightened by Judge Vance's ruling.  In an earlier appeal in this same case, the Supreme Court rejected the same argument on which Judge Vance bases his ruling.  The Supreme Court has already indicated that the lawyers appointed by the Governor have full authority to handle these cases, but Judge Vance apparently thinks his personal view trumps the Supreme Court.  Our system requires that trial judges follow the rulings made by the Supreme Court.  We have a problem right now in Alabama with some trial judges refusing to obey the Supreme Court, and all of these situations arise in gambling cases.  It is further proof that illegal gambling corrupts our system of government and undermines the rule of law."


"Today's ruling from Judge Vance saying that the Governor did not have the authority to appoint counsel to represent the task force and that the Governor lacks any authority to create his own prosecutor is a step towards resolution of the constitutional crisis created by Governor Bob Riley.

Like most every Alabamian, we strongly agree with Judge Vance's ruling that the Governor should never have the right to replace the opinion of local law enforcement with his own opinions, ignoring the constitution and the will of the voters.

Of course the Governor has vowed to appeal but his statement doesn't end there. Gov. Riley goes on to characterize Judge Vance, one of the most respected jurists in the state, as corrupt simply because he has taken a stance based on law rather than on politics.  Regardless of the ongoing back-and-forth in the courts, it is clearer than ever that the best way to resolve this is for the legislature to allow the people of Alabama the right to vote on this issue and decide it once and for all."