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PHILADELPHIA-The state Supreme Court held up its August 2008 decision in HSP Gaming v. City of Philadelphia as cause to deny challenges by a group of state legislators and Philadelphia City Council over whether the city, and not the state, can grant SugarHouse Casino a license to build on submerged lands beneath the Delaware River.

In Fumo v. City of Philadelphia, the court said its earlier ruling that found the state delegated to the city its power to license the land under Act 321 of 1907 meant the two groups’ arguments failed.

While the ruling, issued by Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille, found that the state legislators had standing to claim the city’s Commerce Department’s issuance of the license was improper because only the General Assembly can grant such rights, it found the claim was without merit based on HSP Gaming . The court ruled the legislators do not have standing to challenge the issuance of the license under the theory that the Commerce Department didn’t require HSP to produce a proper deed or title.

Castille said City Council, led in this suit by Councilman Frank DiCicco, did not have standing to challenge the license on the grounds the city lacked authority to issue it.

The state legislators had standing as to their first issue because they were seeking to vindicate an alleged usurping of their power — the power to grant a license on the submerged lands. They do not have standing to challenge the Commerce Department’s decision to grant the license as inconsistent with Act 321 because that is only a disagreement with the way the department interpreted its duties and not an alleged encroachment on the legislators’ power, the court said.

City Council and DiCicco, the court said, did not identify a legally protected interest that would grant them standing and did not show how their power as local legislators was interfered with or diminished by the issuance of the license, the court said.

The court ruled none of the parties have standing as taxpayers because the matters at issue were not ones that wouldn’t have otherwise been challenged in court.

“Indeed, the city’s authority has been challenged in court,” Castille said.

The group of Philadelphia-area legislators included former Sen. Michael Stack and Reps. Michael H. O’Brien, John J. Taylor, Michael McGeehan and Robert C. Donatucci. Former Sen. Vincent J. Fumo was also a plaintiff in the case. A spokeswoman for Sen. Lawrence M. Farnese Jr., who serves the district once represented by Fumo, said Farnese is not a party to the lawsuit.

Castille was joined in the opinion by Justices Thomas G. Saylor, J. Michael Eakin, Max Baer and Debra Todd. Justice Seamus P. McCaffery joined the majority with the exception of its handling of the state legislators’ petition review, though he concurred in its result.

Saylor and McCaffery had issued dissenting opinions in HSP Gaming.

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