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States brief ~ RI Supreme Court hears arguments on constitutionality of casinos

[JURIST] Leading Monday's states brief, the Rhode Island Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments today on whether a casino proposed by the Narragansett Indian tribe [tribe website] and the Las Vegas-based Harrah's Entertainment would be a constitutional expansion of gambling. Last year, the Supreme Court declared [PDF text] the proposal unconstitutional because it violated the requirement that all lotteries be state run. This year the state General Assembly passed a new proposal which gives the state lottery division control over all operations at the casino. Supporters claim the new proposal satisfies the state constitution's requirement that all lotteries be run by the state, but opponents claim the proposal is still an unconstitutional expansion of gambling. The state Supreme Court is issuing an advisory opinion at the request of the House of Representatives, and if the court finds the proposal constitutional, it will still have to be approved in a statewide ballot. AP has more.

In other state legal news ...

  • Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal Monday announced [Attorney General press release] a $1.5 million settlement agreement with Wal-Mart to resolve a 2001 lawsuit in which the state accused the company of environmental violations. Specifically, the state accused Wal-Mart [company website] of improperly storing sediments, fertilizers, oil and other potential pollutants in places where rain could wash them into nearby bodies of water and of operating without proper permits for handling wastewater from processing photographs and byproducts from working on cars. As part of the agreement, Wal-Mart will pay a $600,000 fine, contribute $500,000 to help cities comply with storm and water regulations and donate $50,000 to environmental projects in the Connecticut River Watershed [Connecticut River Watershed Council website]. Blumenthal said the agreement sends a strong message to the company. AP has more.

  • The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reinstated criminal charges [PDF decision text] for risking catastrophe and conspiracy against two men Monday for the collapse of a nightclub pier [The Detroit News coverage] into the Delaware River by finding that the two men did more than simply ignore the pier's structural problems. In reversing two lower court decisions that found felony charges were not warranted against the men, the Supreme Court wrote "The actual evidence ... tended to show that, for approximately five and one-half years (the men) allowed the structural soundness of their pier to steadily decline in large part because of the cost to repair it satisfactorily." Three women were killed and dozens injured when the Philadelphia pier fell into the Delaware River in 2000. AP has more.

  • The Alabama Supreme Court of Civil Appeals [official website] has found that the Alabama Department of Environmental Management's [official website] water quality "antidegradation policy" satisfies water quality standards under the Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act [Enviromental Protection Agency website] requires states to avoid water pollution or at least hold it to an absolute minimum when some level of pollution is necessary for economic development. The court also upheld the ADEM's cost-based rule which states that if the cost of a nonpolluting alternative wastewater method is 10% or more than the cost of the current method, the other alternative is not required. The Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation filed a lawsuit [LEAF press release] against the department in 2002, saying that the department's permit process allows too many businesses to pollute state waterways and the cost-based rule is arbitrary and unconstitutional. AP has more.

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