On Friday, January 7, 2011, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued its decision in Keystone Redevelopment Partners v. Decker. In the case, Keystone Redevelopment Partners was one of five applicants for a gaming license. When the Board awarded the only two available licenses to two other casinos (HSP Gaming for Sugarhouse Casino and Philadelphia Entertainment and Development Partners for Foxwoods Casinos), Keystone filed suit against the Board Members, claiming that the Board had improperly considered Keystone’s ties to Atlantic City casinos. Specifically, Keystone alleged that the Board violated the Equal Protection Clause and Dormant Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
After the District Court denied the Board Members absolute and qualified immunity from suit, Schnader took the appeal on behalf of the Board Members. The Schnader team consisted of Ralph Wellington, Nancy Winkelman, Joe Anclien, and Joe Langkamer. Schnader argued on behalf of the Board Members that the Board Members were entitled to immunity from suit under the absolute, quasi-judicial immunity doctrine, or alternatively, the qualified immunity doctrine.
Schnader’s arguments prevailed. In a huge victory for the Gaming Board, the Third Circuit handed down its opinion, reversing the District Court and holding that the Board serves a quasi-judicial role and its members are therefore absolutely immune from suit. The majority opinion was authored by Judge Garth and was joined by Judge Ambro. Judge Fisher filed a dissenting and concurring opinion, in which he agreed with the result, but on qualified immunity grounds rather than absolute immunity.
Please see The Legal Intelligencer article "Gaming Board Protected by Judicial Immunity, 3rd Circuit Rules" for more information on this case.