The Arkansas Supeme Court is hearing oral arguments this morning on a couple of high-profile cases.
* CASINOS: In the first argument, the Nancy Todd Poker Palace casino amendment lawyer is arguing for a place on the ballot for the constitutional amendment to approve four casinos in Arkansas. Secretary of State Mark Martin has opposed certification. That’s in sympathy with the attorney general’s office, which belatedly expressed concerns about the amendment’s impact on existing casinos at Oaklawn and Southland; the Family Council, a conservative religio/political lobby, which has intervened to fight the amendment because it opposes gambling, and another intervening group financed by the Southland casino.
* ANNE PRESSLY: At 10:30 a.m., the Court will be hearing arguments by Patricia Cannady, mother of slain KATV anchor Anne Pressly, that she should be able to pursue an invasion of privacy lawsuit against St. Vincent Infirmary employees who violated medical privacy in viewing Pressly’s medical records. A lower court has ruled Pressly’s death foreclosed a lawsuit over invasion of her privacy. Cannady is making an “outrage” claim, but an attorney opposing that claim said it amounted to a “relational claim” of privacy invasion that courts have repeatedly turned back, particularly parents of an adult child. The defense also argued against the claim by the estate that only tangible damage to a person survives death, not intangible, such as emotional harm. Intentional wrongdoing should be actionable, Cannady’s lawyer responded. “If this isn’t a personal injury, what is it?”
COMMENT ON CASINOS: Peter Kumpe, attorney for Nancy Todd, slyly drops again the suggestion that it can’t be casino gambling underway at Oaklawn and Southland (and thus be something subject to impact by the casino amendment), because casino operations are not contemplated by the laws allowing the tracks’ “electronic games of skill.” The tangled web of deception woven in creating that billion-dollar enterprise produces a little more blowback. Deservedly.
Asa Hutchinson, working for Mark Martin, on the other hand is emphasizing the amendment’s potential impact on the racetrack gambling parlors because it would give sole authority to operate casinos to Nancy Todd’s group. So then, the secretary of state would seem to be arguing effectively that Oaklawn and Southland are operating casinos. Is that legal in Arkansas?
Much of the casino argument is about jurisdiction and dealing at the 11th hour with challenges, particularly an amendment to a ballot title after petition signers had signed a proposal with a different ballot title. The statute clearly allows for amendments after the petition process has begun, one justice noted. But Southland’s attorney, Steve Lancaster, argued that the constitution required that the whole signature drive be started anew after an amendment to the title. Cuz, see, everybody really reads those titles closely before signing petitions at Riverfest and Walmarts and such. Todd’s lawyer said the amendment, to say it might impact the racinos, didn’t materially change the proposal and that the original title was sufficient, despite the objections. Questions from the court focused heavily on what the amendment might suggest to voters.