Opinions & Commentaries

Overruled (in part)

Appellant Kirby is the director of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, an administrative agency vested by the California Constitution with primary authority for the licensing of the sale of alcoholic beverages in that State, and with the authority to suspend or revoke any such license if it determines that its continuation would be contrary to public welfare or morals. Art. XX, § 22, California Constitution. Appellees include holders of various liquor licenses issued by appellant, and dancers at premises operated by such licensees. In 1970 the Department promulgated rules regulating the type of entertainment that might be presented in bars and nightclubs that it licensed. Appellees then brought this action in the United States District Court for the Central District of California under the provisions of 28 U. S. C. §§ 1331, 1343, 2201, 2202, and 42 U. S. C. § 1983. A three-judge court was convened in accordance with 28 U. S. C. §§ 2281 and 2284, and the majority of that court held that substantial portions of the regulations conflicted with the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.[1]

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Appellant is a town attorney in Nassau County, N. Y., who, along with other local law enforcement officials, was preliminary enjoined by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York from enforcing a local ordinance of the town of North Hempstead. Salem Inn, Inc. v. Frank, 364 F. Supp. 478 (1973), aff'd, 501 F. 2d 18 (CA2 1974). In addition to defending the ordinance on the merits, he contends that the complaint should have been dismissed on the authority of Younger v. Harris, 401 U. S. 37 (1971), and its companion cases.

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In 1973, appellants began operating an adult bookstore in the commercial zone in the Borough of Mount Ephraim in Camden County, N. J. The store sold adult books, magazines, and films. Amusement licenses shortly issued permitting the store to install coin-operated devices by virtue of which a customer could sit in a booth, insert a coin, and watch an adult film. In 1976, the store introduced an additional coin-operated mechanism permitting the customer to watch a live dancer, usually nude, performing behind a glass panel. *63 Complaints were soon filed against appellants charging that the bookstore's exhibition of live dancing violated § 99-15B of Mount Ephraim's zoning ordinance, which described the permitted uses in a commercial zone,[1] in which the store was located, as follows:

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Overruled (in part)

452 U.S. 714 (1981) NEW YORK STATE LIQUOR AUTHORITY v. BELLANCA, DBA THE MAIN EVENT, ET AL. No. 80-813. Supreme Court of United States. Decided June 22, 1981. ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS OF NEW YORK. PER CURIAM. The question presented in this case is the power of a State to prohibit topless dancing in an establishment licensed by the State to serve liquor. In 1977, the State of New York amended its Alcoholic Beverage Control Law to prohibit nude dancing in establishments licensed by the State to sell liquor for on-premises consumption. N. […]

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Overruled (in part)

479 U.S. 92 (1986) CITY OF NEWPORT, KENTUCKY, ET AL. v. IACOBUCCI, DBA TALK OF THE TOWN, ET AL. No. 86-139. Supreme Court of United States. Decided November 17, 1986 ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT PER CURIAM. In 1982, the City Commission of Newport, Ky., enacted Ordinance No. 0-82-85. This ordinance prohibited nude or nearly nude dancing in local establishments licensed to sell *93 liquor for consumption on the premises.[1] A state law imposing an almost identical prohibition on nude dancing was upheld by this Court in New […]

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An Indiana public indecency statute prohibits, among other things, appearing nude in public. Two adult entertainment establishments and an erotic dancer sued to prevent enforcement of this statute as it applied to nude dancing. The trial court eventually held that nude dancing is not expressive activity protected by the First Amendment and upheld the statute. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding that non-obscene nude dancing is entitled to First Amendment protection. When speech and non-speech elements are combined in the same course of conduct (such as burning a draft card), the government can regulate that conduct if (1) the regulation is within the constitutional power of the government, (2) the regulation furthers a substantial governmental interest, (3) the governmental interest is unrelated to the suppression of free expression, and (4) the incidental restriction on the speech element of the conduct is not greater than necessary to further the substantial governmental interest. United States v. O'Brien, 391 U.S. 367 (1968).

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April 17, 2017

The First Amendment protects much more than the spoken or printed word. It also protects various forms of symbolic speech and expressive conduct. The Supreme Court has ruled that the display of a red flag, the wearing of a black armband, the burning of the American flag and yes, even nude performance dancing are forms of expression that when restricted, require First Amendment review.

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