Philadelphia, PA, May 5, 2009 — Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC attorneys Howard D. Scher and Thomas P. Manning succeeded, on behalf of their client Blue Bell developer Peter DePaul in persuading the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to strike down a campaign contribution ban applicable to casino investors as unconstitutional under the Pennsylvania Constitution. The court delivered its opinion on April 30.

In DePaul v. Commonwealth, a case of first impression, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court parted ways with courts in New Jersey and Louisiana, which had upheld similar bans, in finding that a provision of the Pennsylvania Gaming Act "clearly, palpably and plainly violates" the protections of free expression in the Pennsylvania Constitution because the provision prohibits individuals affiliated with licensed gaming from making any political contributions to Pennsylvania candidates and political organizations.

The court had never previously addressed the protections afforded to political contributions under the Pennsylvania Constitution, and, in its opinion, confirmed that such contributions are "a form of non-verbal, protected expression." Further, as urged by the attorneys, the court concluded that its prior decision in Pap's A.M. v. City of Erie establishes that restrictions on free expression must be reviewed by the court under a "strict scrutiny" standard. 

The court found that the provision "totally bans a protected form of political expression and association which is unrelated to the identified interest, and does so despite the availability of more narrowly tailored restrictions." As a result, the court struck down the provision and enjoined the state from enforcing it.

Scher, who served as lead counsel in the case, stated, "the result is a victory not just for those affiliated with licensed gaming, but for those interested in protecting freedom of political expression and association in Pennsylvania. The decision re-affirms Pennsylvania's long-standing tradition of providing protections to those freedoms, protections that go beyond those provided by the United States Constitution."

Howard D. Scher, Thomas P. Manning and Landon Y. Jones of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC in Philadelphia represented the petitioner Peter DePaul in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, with assistance from Thomas L. VanKirk, John R. Leathers and David J. Porter of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC in Pittsburgh. The case is captioned Peter DePaul v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, No. 194 EM 2007 (Pa.).