Federal Judge says latest bingo ruling changes the states balance of power over legal issues

By Jonathan Hardison

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Could the latest state supreme court ruling over bingo signal a bigger shift in the way Alabama's state government is run?

At least one prominent federal judge thinks so. Judge John Carroll, Dean of Samford's Cumberland School of Law says Governor Riley walks away from Friday's ruling with more than just the power to run his anti-gambling task force.

While the focus was on the immediate impact on the multi-million dollar bingo business, Carroll says this ruling goes way beyond bingo. It changes the balance of power when it comes to who calls the state's legal shots.

"I think what it means is now the Governor has power over the way the state conducts its legal business," Carroll said. "Under the previous decisions, again, the Attorney General appeared to have the decision about when he could dismiss a case, when he could represent the state of Alabama. And that now, this new decision suggests when there's a conflict between the Attorney General and the Governor over how the state's legal business oughta be conducted that the Governor gets the final call."

"They said that what we are doing is absolutely within our jurisdiction, and I think once and for all maybe this can put the attorney general's assertions to rest," Governor Riley said after Friday's ruling.

Judge Carroll says the Supreme Court looked at a 1990 decision that gave legal powers to the attorney general and decided that ruling was wrong. While Attorney General Troy King looks over the ruling this weekend, Carroll says there may not be much for he or bingo operators can do to fight this latest ruling.

"I'm not sure, given this most recent opinion, that there's much they can do other than fight the long legal battle over whether or not machines in a particular place violate the definition of bingo, that's still an issue the court has still not decided."

Bingo halls in places like Fairfield and the rest of the Bessemer cutoff are still open this weekend, but task force commander John Tyson hasn't ruled out raiding or shutting down the bingo casinos as early as this week.

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