By Alan Collins
MONTGOMERY, AL (WBRC) - The Alabama Supreme Court has appointed a former Supreme Court chief justice to investigate allegations involving the court and the Riley administration, a decision called "unprecedented" by many court watchers.
The court announced Tuesday its decision to appoint former chief justice Gorman Houston to lead an investigation of the current court and the Riley administration. Tuscaloosa Businessman Stan Pate has alleged Gov. Bob Riley has influenced the court to issue ruling favorable for Riley's task force on illegal gambling.
Gorman Houston is no stranger to controversy. He became a chief justice during the time the state court ordered the removal of former chief justice Roy Moore's Ten Commandments Monument.
Mark White, a Birmingham attorney for Victoryland owner Milton McGregor, on Tuesday welcomed Houston's appointment.
"He is a person of eminence integrity and widely respected," White said. "I can only commend the court for picking Justice Houston. He is the ideal person to do a very sensitive but important job."
White said he spoke with Houston on Monday about information concerning those allegations.
"I think every person expects the court to dispense justice with fairness and integrity but also having the appearance of being fair," White said.
State Representative John Rogers has also questioned how the Riley administration could get so many favorable rulings out for his task force out of the state high court.
"Evidently he can call them at night and they will make a decision," Rogers said. "They do it like flap jacks. He calls them and flip, you got a decision."
Governor Riley denied the allegations in an earlier editorial.
"Neither I nor any member of the Task Force nor any Task Force lawyer no anyone acting at my direction has ever discussed any of the Task Force's appeal with any justice on the Supreme Court. Neither I nor any member of the Task Force nor any Task Force lawyer has had any advance notice as to which justice had been assigned to write the opinion in any Task Force appeal, nor did any of us or anyone acting at our direction ever ask that a Task Force appeal be assigned to a particular justice." Gov. Riley said.
It is not clear if the investigation will interfere with pending rulings surrounding electronic bingo. Attorneys for Macon County Officials have asked the Supreme Court to reconsider it's earlier ruling giving Gov. Riley authority to send his task force to raid Victoryland.
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