Center Stage group working to force recusal of judge assigned to forfeiture case | News
DOTHAN, AL (WSFA) - The group that owns the Center Stage gaming facility is working to force the Houston County Circuit Court Judge assigned to their forfeiture case to recuse himself due to personal relationships that they feel may show bias towards their cause.
Center Stage, a gaming facility in Houston County, had its machines and profits seized by the state following the execution of a search warrant at the facility back in July. Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said the search warrant was issued "in response to an ongoing investigation of illegal gambling operations."
The owner of Center Stage, the Houston Economic Development Association, is fighting back against the forfeiture of those machines and profits associated with the business.
The owners applied for a Writ of Mandamus with the Supreme Court of Alabama to force Houston County Circuit Court Judge Michael Conaway to re-consider a motion they filed for Judge Conaway's recusal.
Judge Conaway is the fourth Judge that has been assigned to this case. The first three judges, Judge Anderson, Judge Binford and Judge Mendheim also recused themselves following motions filed by HEDA regarding their previous work on cases involving gambling in Houston County.
This is the second motion filed for recusal against Judge Conaway by HEDA. The first motion had to do with Conaway’s alleged involvement in the same "JIC" opinion drafted by Judge Anderson however it was determined Conaway was not involved in the circumstances behind the opinion. This motion cites Conaway's "personal friendships with people in Houston County who are anti-gambling" as well as Conaway's appointment by former Alabama Governor Bob Riley. Conaway was also the judge who issued the original search warrant for the Center Stage property.
Judge Conaway has denied both motions for recusal thus far.
Prosecuting attorneys stated in court filings that the motion by HEDA was merely an attempt to "derail and delay" litigation because HEDA knew their operations at Center Stage were illegal.
The State Supreme Court issued order stays all current legal proceedings until responses and briefs can be filed.