L.A. Council told to pay attention to female dancers
Here’s an interesting case involving nude female dancers and a city council that wasn’t interested.Nude dancersLacy Street Hospitality Services (“Lacy”) operated an adult cabaret known as The Blue Zebra, which showcased nude female dancers. Lacy wanted to extend its operating hours and hire its own guards to provide security instead of using independent contractors as required under its permit.Remember, nude dancing is “protected expressive activity” under the First Amendment, so government may regulate where such activity occurs provided it does not ban it outright. If you don’t get the connection between nude dancing and free speech, don’t worry, you’re not alone.The Los Angeles zoning administrator approved Lacy’s request, which was appealed by disgruntled neighbors to the Los Angeles City Council.L.A. council meetingThe city council listened to Lacy’s testimony, but Los Angeles is a big place and the council members had more important things to do. So as a videotape later revealed, when the nude dancing matter commenced, eight of 14 council members were not in their seats. Two were paying attention. Four others were talking with aides, eating or reviewing unrelated paperwork.One minute into Lacy’s presentation, a council member began talking on his cell phone, while two pairs of council members engaged in private conversations. Finally, Lacy’s attorney complained “it doesn’t appear that too many people are paying attention.”At one point one council member was walking from one side of the council chamber to the other to talk to different colleagues. At any given time only five council members were seated, but most were not listening to the speaker.When the neighbors began their presentation, the council behavior did not change. Ultimately, the council denied Lacy’s request to hire its own security guards and have longer hours.A fair and impartial hearingLacy sued claiming it did not receive a fair and impartial hearing. Los Angeles argued the hearing was fair because council members treated Lacy and the neighbors alike – ignoring both. The court rejected that argument noting that Lacy and its opponents had the right to be equally heard, not equally ignored.In the end, the court found that Lacy was denied due process as the city council “cannot be said to have made a reasoned decision based upon hearing all of the evidence and argument, which is the essence of sound decision making.”The courts give great deference to municipalities, but Los Angeles went over the line. Another reason to avoid the place.Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter • Simon, with offices in Truckee, South Lake Tahoe and Reno. He is a mediator and was the governor’s appointee to the Bipartisan McPherson Commission and the California Fair Political Practices Commission. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at http://www.portersimon.com.
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