Each state regulates gambling and marital bliss in its own way.  South Carolina, for example, doesn’t truck with gambling much at all.  And Utah has "forever prohibited" plural or polygamous marriages.

But what happens when somebody goes to federal court to challenge such state laws as unconstitutional?  Two circuit court decisions from today and yesterday, respectively, give us a glimpse.

In the South Carolina gambling case, Jimmy Martin and Luck Strike LLC sued state officials to stop them from enforcing two state statutes that criminalize certain "device[s] pertaining to games of chance."  The district court abstained, under Burford v. Sun Oil Co., 319 U.S. 315 (1943), to let the parties sort out the issues in state court.  The Fourth Circuit, by 2-1, reversed, ordering that the parties must roll the dice in federal court.  Martin v. Stewart, No. 06-1829 (4th Cir. Aug. 30, 2007).

The polygamy case aimed to decriminalize multiple connubiality in the Beehive State.  The district court dismissed on the merits, but the Tenth Circuit held it shouldn’t have.  The plaintiffs forfeited any challenge to Utah’s civil ban on plural marriage by focusing on the criminal prohibition, the court concluded.  And, because the plaintiffs didn’t allege a genuine threat of criminal prosection — the Salt Lake County clerk having rejected their bid for a marriage license — the court held that they lacked standing.  Bronson v. Swensen, No. 05-4161 (10th Cir. Aug. 29, 2007).

Barry Barnett

Feedicon14x14 Our feed allows conjugal visits.