The Hollywood Casino Jamul has been fighting for some time to gain approval for a permanent casino liquor license. Since fall of last year, opponents of the gaming venue have claimed that due to safety issues the casino should not be allowed a permanent license to sell liquor. The casino has been under fire from the very beginning with the Jamul Action Committee fighting them on the liquor issue as well as questioning the legal status of the Jamul Indian Village’s reservation. Now, it seems the judge that has presided in the liquor license case has now removed himself due to emails he had been sent in order for the hearing to remain fair.
Administrative Law Judge John W. Lewis has already presided over two hearings in November or the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and has now recused himself. A letter was sent by Lewis to County Supervisor Dianne Jacob and ‘concerned parties’ stating that he was concerned about emails he had been sent that could prevent a fair hearing.
The emails involved information that had been presented to the judge by Patrick Webb, an attorney who represents those opposed to the casino. The information included the question of whether or not the Jamul Indian Village is a proper tribe.
Also included in the emails were the acting director of the ABC, Ramona Prieto, an attorney Peter Williams and the senior advisor to the governor for tribal negotiations, Joginder Dhillon. Williams had written to Dhillon that while the ABC had protested, Lewis took it into consideration, despite the issue not being in his jurisdiction. Webb was not described in a good light within the email, actually being referred to as an individual who has initiated frivolous legal action in the past.
The casino opened last year with a temporary alcohol license in place. The hearings that have taken place have been part of the application process that the management of the casino must endure to be able to be approved by the ABC board for a license.
A new judge will now be put in place and once chosen will be making the decision in the matter based on the existing record. According to the ABC Chief Counsel, Jacob Rambo, a new hearing is not desired or necessary in this case.
Once a ruling has been made by the judge, Ramona Prieto will then make the decision to approve or reject the ruling. It is believed that appeals will take place no matter the ruling.