Case Overview

Legal Principle at Issue

Whether a city can justify a ban on multiple-use adult businesses by relying on a study that does not examine the harmful, secondary effects of those type of businesses.


Reversed and remanded. Petitioning party received a favorable disposition.


In 1977, soon after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Young v. American Mini Theatres, Inc., 427 U.S. 50 (1976), the city of Los Angeles' planning commission studies the effects of adult businesses on the city. The study concludes that a proliferation of adult businesses leads to an increase in crime and a decrease in surrounding property values. Based on this study, the city council passes a zoning law that prohibits adult businesses from locating within 1,000 feet of another adult business or 500 feet within a church, school, or public park.

Then, in 1983, the city passes an ordinance banning so-called multiple use adult businesses, such as businesses that operate as both adult bookstores and adult arcades. Many years later, two adult businesses Alameda Books and Highland Books that operate as both bookstores and arcades sue in federal court, contending that the 1983 law is unconstitutional.

In 1998, a federal district court eventually sides with the adult businesses and prevents the city from enforcing the law. In 2000, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court decision. The 9th Circuit reasons that the city did not have sufficient evidence that multiple-use adult businesses caused harmful, secondary effects. The panel writes: "The study did not identify any harmful secondary effects resulting from bookstore/arcade combinations as individual business units." The city appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, which grants review on March 5, 2001.

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