2011-01-13 / Local & State

Lawsuit Over Casino License Thrown Out

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – A federal appeals court on Friday threw out a lawsuit against former members of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board over their rejection of a Donald Trump company’s effort to obtain a Philadelphia casino license.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that members of the gambling oversight board are entitled to absolute, quasi-judicial immunity, dismissing the case brought by Keystone Redevelopment Partners LLC.

Keystone had claimed the 2006 board decision favored local interests at the expense of out-of-town interests because it was based on concerns that Keystone’s casinos in Atlantic City, N.J., might benefit, the court wrote.

The two-judge majority opinion, which overturned a district judge’s decision, said members of the Gaming Control Board can’t make decisions without fear of intimidation if they’re not immune from personal liability.

In a separate opinion, Judge Michael Fisher wrote that he agreed with the decision to reverse the lowercourt ruling but disputed what he called the other two judges’ “broad interpretation of quasi-judicial immunity.’’

Fisher said the Gaming Control Board acts entirely on its own discretion and is not sufficiently ruled by previous decisions or law to qualify as a judicial body.

The board issued a statement saying it has developed safeguards to protect the impartiality of its process.

“The board has been resolute in its determination to avoid partisanship and inappropriate influence in its decisions and believes that the court’s decision today is an affirmation that its processes are accomplishing the goal,’’ Gaming Control Board lawyer R. Douglas Sherman said.

Telephone and e-mail messages left for Harrisburg lawyer David R. Overstreet, listed as Keystone’s attorney on the opinion, were not immediately returned Friday.

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