Alabama Judge Refuses to Recuse Himself in Bingo Case

The Alabama electronic bingo war continues with accusations of misconduct from both sides of the issue. The latest flap occurred when the company fighting forfeiture of its cash and bingo machines asked a judge to recuse himself from the case because of alleged ties to anti-gambling supporters. The Houston Economic Development Association, which operates the Country Crossing/Center Stage casinos, is asking Houston County Circuit Judge Michael Conaway to step away from the case. Conway has refused to step down and says the latest motion asking him to step aside was crafted for “media dissemination.”

Conway issued a strongly worded order which read in part “The movant (HEDA) ‘boot-straps’ its argument off a two-year old media article, irrelevant public documents, and exhibits which are woven into a limited or flawed narrative. The motion appears to be framed for media dissemination as opposed to judicial consideration. It is full of innuendo, inferences, hearsay, speculation and opinion. Again, there are no facts alleged which would show the Court has any bias, hostility or prejudice.” In other words the judge is accusing the development association of trying the case in the media.

Conway is currently presiding over the case that involves the seizure of 600 electronic bingo machines and $283,000 from the bingo hall at center stage July 25th. Alabama attorney general and anti-gambling extremist Luther Strange contends that the machines are illegal under Alabama law. Strange also claims that the seized cash was from illegal gambling activities and is subject to forfeiture. The Houston Economic Development Association claims the seizures are illegal and that the state must return the machines and cash. The next hearings in the case will take place on September 26th.

HEDA is also questioning Conway’s appointment to the bench by former governor Riley who started the electronic bingo wars. The association also questioned a recommendation for Conaway’s appointment to the bench by anti-bingo forces. Conway addressed the allegations in his order and stated “Finally, let me put one thing to rest. While I serve the good people of this State by appointment, I perform my judicial functions with diligence, determination and dedication. I am always mindful of my oath of office and the responsibility I have to the law and the citizens of the state. My record of judicial service speaks for itself and stands up to scrutiny.”

HEDA had asked for more time to gather evidence to support their motion and also asked for time to respond to the motion filed by the state. HEDA attorney Ernie Hornsby said the association plans to take the recusal issue to a higher court.