In Greensville County Circuit Court, Judge Louis Lerner overruled the Virginia Attorney General's Office Demurrer on Tuesday. He denied motions to dismiss the Sadler Brothers Oil Company complaint that the skill game ban violates the free speech of Virginia small business owners.
On Dec. 6, the two parties return to Emporia for a hearing on an injunction to allow skill games to resume and the Commonwealth's position that the skill game ban is constitutional.
Many Virginia small business owners stood outside the Greensville County courthouse awaiting the decision from the proceedings in the courtroom. They were pleased with what Hermie Sadler's attorney William Stanley had to say.
"A great victory for Mr. Sadler. A great victory for Sadler Brothers Oil, and what a great victory for ya'll who stuck with us," Stanley said.
Stanley told the crowd of supporters of the lawsuit that he plans to win the December hearing and see the games resume in December.
The skill game ban passed by the Virginia General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam went into effect July 1. The ban impacts hundreds of small business owners that previously housed skill games throughout the Commonwealth. The governor, Attorney General Mark Herring, and the Commonwealth of Virginia are named in the lawsuit.
Last month Lerner denied the motion from the attorney general's office to have the venue moved to Richmond. Sadler believes Tuesday's rulings are a step in the right direction for his effort.
"It's another great day in our fight for justice for small business, in our opinion," Sadler said. "Today, the judge overruled the demurrer, which means we are going to go to trial. That allows us to ask questions of the few people in the general assembly who have been ramrodding this whole movement to hurt our business. It's a great day for us, but we still have a long way to go. But, I feel good that it's looking more and more like we're going to have our day in court."
Sadler previously estimated the skill game ban would cost his business approximately $750,000 annually. He was pleased with the strong showing of supporters gathered outside of the courthouse. Those supporters represented the business owners impacted by the July 1 ban.
"These people are hurting," Sadler said. "A lot of them have one store or one restaurant, and when they tell you that you can no longer operate a part of your business on a drop-dead date, a lot of people are hurting because of that."
Sadler his team of Stanley and Ryan McDougle have built their case from the ground up. On Tuesday, the court decided there would be the next step in Sadler's legal proceedings against the Commonwealth, governor, and attorney general.