Will the Massachusetts supreme court let us repeal casino gambling?

September 13 of 2011 was a Tuesday but still an unlucky day for the state. That was when Gov. Patrick met with the two leaders of the General Court to cut a deal on casinos. Mr. Patrick got some concessions in return but sold out supporters who expected him to keep casinos at bay. Everything piled onto the deal after that day has been animal droppings.

Since New Jersey sparked a casino invasion in 1977 by legalizing gambling in Atlantic City, casino maggots have swarmed nationwide–notably in Connecticut and eastern Pennsylvania. In Massachusetts, it takes three to play: the governor, the House speaker and the Senate president. Until late summer of 2011, one of the three kept a can of Raid handy for casino maggots. Then Mr. Patrick caved and the casino deal was on.

A Winthrop-based organization, Repeal the Casino Deal (RCD), led by John Ribeiro, organized efforts to reverse the damage Mr. Patrick inflicted on the state. RCD collected over 90,000 signatures and validated about 70,000 of them to put a repeal question on the state election ballot this fall.

Currently blocking the group’s efforts is Attorney General Martha Coakley, a popular but unworthy candidate for governor. Ms. Coakley refused to certify the ballot question, essentially on grounds that, unlike casino maggots she favors, people of the state do not have constitutional rights. Ms. Coakley is reportedly advised by former Patrick administration Chief of Staff Doug Rubin, who has been working as a consultant and registered lobbyist for the gambling industry, assisting a casino operator and a manufacturer of slot machines.

RCD challenged Ms. Coakley at the Supreme Judicial Court. It has heard arguments and is expected to rule early in July. Meanwhile, since the General Court declined an option to enact repeal, RCD collected another 26,000 signatures and is validating and filing them.

As the Boston Globe recently disclosed, at least one member of the Massachusetts supreme court has longstanding ties to the gambling industry. As a “partner at McDermott Will & Emery in the 1990s,” Andrea Estes wrote, “[Justice Robert] Cordy represented the owners of Suffolk Downs,” which from 1995 to 1997 sought to open a slot-machine parlor. Owners of Suffolk Downs are involved in the pending case.

An upstanding judge with a partisan history of participation in legal issues will commonly recuse himself or herself from a case involving those issues or their beneficiaries. So far, Mr. Justice Cordy, a nominee of former Republican Gov. Paul Cellucci, has failed to do that. He risks being seen as dishonoring the courts.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, June 22, 2014

Frank Phillips, Ex-Patrick aide now lobbyist for gambling firm, Boston Globe, February 24, 2011

Noah Bierman, House Democrats to discuss gambling bill tomorrow, Boston Globe, September 12, 2011

State House News Service, Coakley says casino law repeal is not eligible for ballot, Gatehouse Media, December 8, 2011

Andy Metzger, State House News Service, AG rebuffs casino ban question, accepts 14 others, Cape Cod (Hyannis) Times, September 4, 2013

Frank Phillips and Jim O’Sullivan, Baker enters governor’s race, Coakley weighs bid, Boston Globe, September 4, 2013

Matt Murphy, State House News Service, Anti-casino advocates file injunction against Attorney General’s ballot ruling, Cape Cod (Hyannis) Times, September 11, 2013

Joan Vennochi, What does a casino share with Coakley? Boston Globe, February 13, 2014

Andrea Estes, Justice hearing casino repeal case tied to Suffolk Downs, Boston Globe, May 10, 2014

Associated Press, Anti-casino group collects enough signatures for ballot, Boston Herald, June 17, 2014

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