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Court rules on adult-business ordinance

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Six years after the city of Indianapolis amended its adult-business ordinances, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered the District Court to hold an evidentiary hearing on whether the restricted hours in the new ordinance violate the businesses' constitutional rights.

In Annex Books, et al. v. City of Indianapolis, Ind., No. 05-1926, several adult book stores filed suit after the city expanded the definition of adult entertainment business to include those with more than 25 percent of their inventory consisting of adult literature, films, or devices, or if at least 25 percent of a business's revenue came from adult-themed items. Prior to the amendment, to qualify under the definition, the requirement was 50 percent. The ordinance also required businesses to have licenses, be well-lit and sanitary, and not to be open on Sundays or between midnight and 10 a.m. on other days.

The only issue on review today from the original challenge is the definition of adult entertainment business and the imposition of limits on these stores that other general books stores and video outlets don't face.

The city argued the restrictions were justified because they reduce crime and other secondary effects associated with adult businesses. The city relied on Justice Anthony Kennedy's reasoning in Los Angeles v. Alameda Books, Inc. 535 U.S. 425 (2002), as well as a study it conducted in 1984 before adopting the original ordinance.

But the city relied on studies that don't deal with the exact issue before the court nor do the studies show that an increase in adult businesses' hours is associated with more crime, wrote Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook. The studies the city used concern businesses with live sex shows, private booths, or both; only one of the plaintiffs in the instant case offers any kind of live entertainment.

"Indianapolis has approached this case by assuming that any empirical study of morals offenses near any kind of adult establishment in any city justifies every possible kind of legal restriction in every city," he wrote. "But because books (even of the 'adult' variety) have a constitutional status different from granola and wine, and laws requiring the closure of bookstores at night and on Sunday are likely to curtail sales, the public benefits of the restrictions must be established by evidence, and not just asserted."

The Circuit Court noted that ordering the District Court to hold an evidentiary hearing and apply immediate scrutiny isn't helpful to the judge or lawyers, but it is possible to be more concrete in arguments supporting the ordinance thanks to Justice Kennedy's opinion in Alameda Books, wrote the chief judge.

A city must advance some basis to show its regulation has the purpose and effect of suppressing secondary effects while leaving the quantity and accessibility of speech substantially intact. He insisted the benefits be compared to the detriments, among other things, Chief Judge Easterbrook wrote.

"These thoughts should give some structure to the hearing on remand - though we recognize that, because crime and speech cannot be reduced to a common metric, a direct comparison (how much speech should be sacrificed to achieve how much reduction in crime?) is difficult if not impossible," he wrote.

Chief Judge Easterbrook also suggested the reasoning in Encore Videos, Inc. v. San Antonio, 330 F.3d 288 (5th Cir. 2003), may provide some assistance on remand.

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  1. Someone off their meds? C'mon John, it is called the politics of Empire. Get with the program, will ya? How can we build one world under secularist ideals without breaking a few eggs? Of course, once it is fully built, is the American public who will feel the deadly grip of the velvet glove. One cannot lay down with dogs without getting fleas. The cup of wrath is nearly full, John Smith, nearly full. Oops, there I go, almost sounding as alarmist as Smith. Guess he and I both need to listen to this again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRnQ65J02XA

  2. Charles Rice was one of the greatest of the so-called great generation in America. I was privileged to count him among my mentors. He stood firm for Christ and Christ's Church in the Spirit of Thomas More, always quick to be a good servant of the King, but always God's first. I had Rice come speak to 700 in Fort Wayne as Obama took office. Rice was concerned that this rise of aggressive secularism and militant Islam were dual threats to Christendom,er, please forgive, I meant to say "Western Civilization". RIP Charlie. You are safe at home.

  3. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  4. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

  5. ACLU. Way to step up against the police state. I see a lot of things from the ACLU I don't like but this one is a gold star in its column.... instead of fighting it the authorities should apologize and back off.

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