Who has the power to prosecute illegal gambling cases in Alabama - the Governor or the Attorney General? A court could make that decision. Monday, a Circuit Judge in Birmingham intervened ordering a response from the Attorney General on the Governor's Task Force on Illegal Gambling's raid of the White Hall Gaming Center.
The latest court order could mean there may be no more raids of any bingo facility in the state that is if the ruling holds up - even though the order pertains only to White Hall. The attorney for White Hall charities, Bobby Segall, says "A judge who has been praised by the Governor for his integrity has looked at this in an objective way and said Governor you just don't have the authority to do what you're doing." Victoryland's attorney Mark White says he's been saying that all along. "It is unprecedented in this state for the Governor to be able to create a political police force of his own."
Circuit Judge Robert Vance writes in his order that the Governor did not have the authority to appoint the head of the Task Force on Illegal Gambling also as its prosecutor. Judge Vance adds Lowndes County, where White Hall is located, already has a prosecutor - the elected District Attorney there. However, Segall describes the exceptions. "Now, if a District Attorney was ill. If the position was vacant. If the District Attorney said I don't want to mess with this period. I'm not going to get involved at all. Then, there might be a right, not only for the Governor but for a Justice of the Supreme Court could possibly appoint a District Attorney to go and look at the matter. But, that's not what happened here. We had a District Attorney who did look at the matter." And, according to the court order, that District Attorney determined there was no reason to take White Hall to court. Segall emphasizes "A governor can form whatever task force he wants. What he didn't have the right to do is appoint a special prosecutor to take the place of the constitutionally elected District Attorney."
The court went on to address the Attorney General by saying, "The Attorney General is therefore directed to assume the direction and control of the state's interests in these cases."
White is looking now for a change. "What I'm hoping comes out of this is that General King coming in and assuming the role will restore some civility and some sense to what has been chaos."
The Judge has given Attorney General Troy King until March 22nd to let the court know what he is going to do and if he plans to take control of the Task Force.
A couple of additions to the story. The Commander of the Task Force, John Tyson says - quote - "Everyone is frustrated with the Attorney General's willingness to let some casino bosses ignore the law". But, Tyson adds, "Judge Vance's order will make the problem worse, not better."