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Protesters opposed to plans to build casinos along the Delaware River filled the state Supreme Court’s City Hall courtroom yesterday in response to a majority of the justices’ ruling late Friday that an anti-casino question cannot – at least for the time being – be placed on the May ballot. The protesters, roughly three-dozen strong, calmly and quietly filed into the courtroom during a lunch break. When the justices returned to the room and called the first case of the afternoon session, the protesters stood up en masse and exited, many of them verbally scolding the justices as they left. The court’s most recent order in Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board v. City Council of Philadelphia had granted the Gaming Control Board’s request for a preliminary injunction with respect to the anti-casino ballot initiative. It did not, however, blow the anti-casino camp completely out of the water. The justices have directed both sides to file briefs on the underlying issue by April 27. Yet some close to the case have suggested the preliminary injunction could amount to a final order on the referendum unless the court acts quickly enough. Before being allowed in the courtroom yesterday – sans posters and banners – the anti-casino protesters held a makeshift rally in the adjacent hallway, during which they repeatedly bemoaned the fact that the high court seemed to take action on the case only after the Gaming Control Board had filed its court papers. Yesterday’s protesters appeared to represent a diverse range of socioeconomic and racial backgrounds. The anti-casino campaign has enjoyed the backing of City Councilman Frank DiCicco, who spent time among the protesters yesterday. DiCicco and his fellow council members voted last month to let Philadelphia’s electorate decide if they are willing to have casinos built within 1,500 feet of schools, residences, houses of worship and other public areas. Joining in Friday’s order granting the Gaming Control Board a preliminary injunction were Chief Justice Ralph J. Cappy and Justices J. Michael Eakin, Max Baer, Cynthia A. Baldwin and James J. Fitzgerald III. Dissenting were Justices Thomas G. Saylor and Ronald D. Castille. In an approximately two-page dissenting statement, Saylor, who is up for retention during this year’s elections, noted that the Gaming Control Board, in asking the high court to exercise original jurisdiction over the litigation, has cited to statutory language that only affords the justices exclusive jurisdiction over cases concerning the constitutionality of the state’s Gaming Control Act. Saylor wrote that settling related jurisdictional questions should come “prior to the award of a preliminary injunction that will likely have the effect of a final one with respect to the challenged ordinance, since the ordinance is couched solely in terms of the May 2007 election.” City Council’s attorney in the case, Maurice Mitts of Mitts Milavec in Philadelphia, said he is filing court papers asking the court to modify the injunction, as the relief the justices granted Friday is “far more extensive than is needed.” “As presently framed, it is essentially a final ruling on the merits,” Mitts said of the preliminary injunction order. The Gaming Control Board’s outside counsel in the matter are attorneys from Hoyle Fickler Herschel & Mathes in Philadelphia. A call to the firm seeking comment was forwarded to the Gaming Control Board’s press office. “The board is sympathetic that some people don’t want these casinos in certain locations,” said Gaming Control Board spokesman Doug Harbach. “But we have an obligation to both uphold the gaming law as written and deliver the financial benefits of gaming to all commonwealth citizens.” Before local citizens do see the financial benefits of legalized gaming in Pennsylvania, their tax dollars will have to foot the legal fees generated by the litigation. Mitts said his firm’s current $100,000 contract with the city for its representation of City Council in the gaming matters may need to undergo an upward amendment due to the length and complexity of the recent litigation. Harbach said that the Gaming Control Board could not make public the size of its corresponding contract with Hoyle Fickler until the board has reviewed an official request to that effect filed by The Legal under the state’s Right to Know Law. Peter Hall contributed to this report. (Copies of the six-page opinion in Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board v. City Council of Philadelphia , PICS No. 07-0568, are available from The Legal Intelligencer . Please call the Pennsylvania Instant Case Service at 800-276-PICS to order or for information. Some cases are not available until 1 p.m.)

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