114 years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that a justice of the peace could be ‘compelled’ (a rather polite way to say ‘forced’) to issue an arrest warrant in a case he originally refused to do so. That case involved bookmaking, and the justice of the peace believed the law was unconstitutional. Fast forward 114 years to a radically changed world, but one in which that 1899 case was still relevant and recently cited to facilitate the same action.
In this case, Tom Young, Macon County Circuit Judge, originally refused to issue a search warrant for the VictoryLand Casino in Shorter, Alabama. He had been provided video evidence from undercover officers that machines in that casino were illegal. However, he refused to issue the warrant on the grounds that the sheriff’s office had deemed the machines to be legal, and that there wasn’t enough evidence to overrule that.
The Attorney General’s office took their fight to the Alabama Supreme Court where that 1899 case was cited, and victory was theirs. The Supreme Court ruled that the Judge could not refuse to issue a warrant because of an incorrect view of the law, and that he was wrong to refuse it. A day after the Supreme Court’s ruling, Judge Young issued the warrant, though stating in a handwritten note that accompanied it that he did so with “the greatest of judicial reluctance”.
Alabama state troopers used that warrant last week to raid the VictoryLand Casino, and confiscate 1,000 of the dubious and controversial bingo machines, which have video screens with small bingo cards and slot-like reels. The Attorney General’s office based their legal action on the fact that the machines don’t comply with standards set by the Alabama Supreme Court for electronic bingo machines, which state that the machines must involve active participation from the player in the form of marking their cards, and that they must announce their wins.
“These machines are clearly illegal, and that’s why we were entitled to seek review in the Supreme Court,” said John C. Neiman Jr., solicitor general in the Attorney General’s Office.
Entitlement that dated back 114 years.