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Thursday, May 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Ala. Justices Steer Clear of Bingo Machine Dispute

(CN) - The Alabama Supreme Court stayed an order barring the commander of the Governor's Task Force on Illegal Gaming from seizing bingo machines from the VictoryLand dog track. The justices said they lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to stop task force commander John M. Tyson, Jr. from enforcing criminal laws.

"The general rule is that a court may not interfere with the enforcement of criminal laws through a civil action," the justices wrote in a per curiam decision.

VictoryLand sought the injunction after Tyson showed up at the track without a warrant on Jan. 29 to seize bingo machines that he claimed were illegal gambling devices.

VictoryLand insisted the machines were legal and said it would suffer "irreparable injury" if the Macon Circuit Court didn't issue a temporary restraining order against Tyson.

The circuit court complied, and Tyson successfully appealed his case to the state Supreme Court.

Justice Thomas Woodall dissented, saying the high court's decision "casts a cloud upon this Court's prior decisions, as well as numerous trial court judgments addressing the legality of various bingo operations."

"What has been an orderly process, I suspect, will soon resemble a three-ring circus," he wrote.

But the majority said the circus analogy "ignores the reality" of its limited jurisdiction.

"Justice Woodall's dissenting opinion would perpetuate the disorderly practice of permitting those threatened with criminal prosecution to seek relief in civil proceedings, without alluding to the long line of cases from which this court departed in the recent past when such action was permitted," the court wrote.

"The time has come to return to the sounder course dictated by established precedent, rather than continue down the wrong road because of timidity in admitting that we had done so."

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