KC Economic Development, LLC v. Alabama

The State of Alabama appealed circuit court orders dismissing the State's petition for forfeiture of certain electronic-gambling devices and related records and currency located at VictoryLand casino (appeal no. 1141044). In 2013, the Alabama Supreme Court issued a writ of mandamus ordering Circuit Judge Tom Young, Jr. to issue a search warrant "as to certain allegedly illegal gambling devices and related items" at the VictoryLand casino in Shorter. During the search, the State seized 1,615 gambling machines, $263,105.81 in currency, and related servers, terminals, and other equipment. Shortly thereafter, the State filed the forfeiture petitions at issue here. The Supreme Court, in response to a petition by the State, issued a writ of mandamus disqualifying Judge Young from presiding over the forfeiture proceeding. All the other eligible judges in the Fifth Judicial Circuit voluntarily recused themselves. Montgomery Circuit Judge William Shashy was appointed to preside over the case. Judge Shashy conducted a four-day bench trial. The State argued the machines seized were illegal gambling devices. Witnesses for KC Economic Development, LLC (KCED) testified that the intent of the voters who in 2003 ratified Macon County's "bingo amendment" was to legalize the very types of devices that had been seized. Nine months later, Judge Shashy entered an order dismissing the forfeiture action on equal-protection grounds, on the basis that the State tolerated at other locations in Alabama the operation of casinos that used the same type machines at issue in this forfeiture case. The order did not address the issue of the legality of the machines. KCED filed a postjudgment motion requesting that the trial court specifically find that the intent of the voters in approving Amendment No. 744 was to authorize the use in Macon County of electronic-gambling machines like those allegedly available at other locations in the State. KCED additionally requested that the trial court order that all the seized property be returned. The State disagreed that it had selectively enforced Alabama's gambling laws and contended that the equal-protection rationale was legally untenable. After a hearing, Judge Shashy issued an order that provided the findings of fact sought by KCED, and repeated his finding from his earlier order that the State was "cherry picking which facilities should remain open or closed" and thus was "not enforcing the law equally." Judge Shashy then entered a conditional order for return of the seized property. The State appealed. The Supreme Court concluded that the devices at issue here were not "bingo" machines, and therefore the "bingo amendment" as grounds for return of the machines was invalid. The Court reversed both circuit court orders and rendered a judgment for the State in appeal no. 1141044. The Court dismissed KCED's cross-appeal in appeal no. 1150027. View "KC Economic Development, LLC v. Alabama" on Justia Law