By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—The Greene County gambling facility GreeneTrack filed a brief before the Alabama Supreme Court this week in an appeal over the facility’s bingo machines.
Greenetrack argues the State is asking the Supreme Court to overstep its boundaries.
“This Court has long cautioned against the very thing that the State now asks this Court to engage in: judicial activism,” attorneys for Greenetrack wrote. “Alabama law is crystal clear that a court is not free to rewrite a constitutional provision or substitute its own judgment or moral musings for that of the Legislature and the people of Alabama — even in matters involving bingo.”
The State filed an appeal on June 27 after Circuit Judge Houston Brown ruled the State improperly seized Greenetrack’s bingo machines in a 2010 raid. Brown said the State failed to prove the 825 bingo machines were illegal under Alabama law, and that they had to return the machines within 30 days of his June 22 ruling.
In the Supreme Court brief, Greenetrack argued that Amendment 743 of the Alabama Constitution, which passed in 2003, authorizes the use and play of electronic bingo in Greene County.
The State said the machines were not in compliance with the amendment.
“Of all the eighteen constitutional amendments authorizing bingo in Alabama, only Amendment 743 plainly and specifically defines both bingo and bingo equipment,” Greenetrack said in their brief to the Court.
The Supreme Court doesn’t have the authority to rewrite State constitutional amendments, attorneys for Greenetrack said. Amendment 743 is the only amendment to the Alabama Constitution that specifically defines bingo and bingo equipment, and it applies only to Greene County.
1. BINGO – That specific kind of game commonly known as bingo in which prizes are awarded on the basis of designated numbers or symbols on a card or electronic marking machine conforming to numbers or symbols selected at random.
2. EQUIPMENT – The receptacle and numbered objects drawn from it, the master board upon which such objects are placed as drawn, the cards or sheets bearing numbers or other designations to be covered and the objects used to cover them or electronic card marking machines, and the board or signs, however operated, used to announce or display the numbers or designations as they are drawn.
Attorney General Luther Strange said earlier this year Brown’s ruling in the case ignored the law as established in a March 31 Supreme Court ruling this year that allowed the State to keep more than 1,600 bingo machines seized at Macon County’s VictoryLand.
Macon County has its own bingo amendment as well, Amendment 744, but it doesn’t specifically authorize electronic bingo or electronic bingo machines.
Attorneys for Greenetrack argue that Brown made the correct decision in his June ruling,
“The trial correctly determined that the seized machines were ‘electronic card marking machines’ and ‘electronic card marking machines’ as those terms are used in Amendment 743,” the attorneys said.
Brown’s ruling this year does not apply to any other counties, the attorney argue, making it unlikely that any other constitutional amendment will need to be reviewed or that the case could be used as precedent in other counties.
Brown is a former Circuit Judge elected in Jefferson County. Former Gov. Bob Riley appointed him to serve as a special trial judge to hear the case. He retired from his post in Jefferson County in 2015.
Attorneys also requested an oral argument before the Court, where the case remains undecided.
“This case presents a unique set of facts and circumstances never before considered by this Court,” Greenetrack attorneys said. “This is the first — and only — case in which the word “bingo” is defined in any bingo constitutional amendment. This is the first — and only — case which involves a bingo constitutional amendment which contains the word “electronic.”