Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC recently announced that Philadelphia Litigation 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.
A May 1, 2009, article published in The Legal Intelligencer reported on the win. As noted in the article, titled "High Court Lifts Ban On Political Money From Casino Investors," "In DePaul v. Commonwealth, Montgomery County resident Peter DePaul argued the ban in Section 1513 of the Gaming Act was overly broad and unlawfully restrictive of his right to free expression under Article I, Section 7, of the Pennsylvania Constitution." The provision prohibits individuals affiliated with licensed gaming from making any political contributions to Pennsylvania candidates and political organizations.
The article went on to report that DePaul's attorney, Howard Scher, "argued that the state Supreme Court has found the protections for freedom of expression under the state constitution to be broader than those afforded by the U.S. Constitution."
"He relied in his argument on the court's 2002 opinion in Pap's A.M. v. City of Erie for the holding that a statute that restricts expression must be subject to strict constitutional scrutiny," the article explained. "In Pap's A.M., the court struck down the city of Erie's law prohibiting nude dancing on grounds that its goal of reducing crime and social ills could be accomplished by other means. The ban was an unlawful restriction of expression, the court ruled."
"That expression is close to the edge of that protected by Article I, Section 7 of the constitution," Scher said. "Surely this expression is closer to the core of that which is to be protected."
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.
Following the April 30, opinion, a number of websites picked up the news, including Arlington, Virginia's NewsChannel 8's website and ABC 7's KVIA.com. Scher, who served as lead counsel in the case, was quoted on the win saying "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."
An article published in the May 11, 2009, edition of PA Law Weekly also reported on the win.