Vice Squad
Friday, September 19, 2003
Lap Dancing to End in L.A.?

My friend and former student Dima Masterov informed me about recent changes to
a Los Angeles city ordinance that will have the effect of ending lap dancing. The
ordinance requires dancers to remain at least 6 feet away from the customers.

Perhaps you feel that the dancer's free speech rights are infringed by this regulation.
It seems that the Supreme Court disagrees with your assessment. While the Court
has long held that nude dancing is expressive conduct (like flag burning, in that
respect) and hence is entitled to free speech guardianship, "it falls only within the
outer ambit of the First Amendment's protection [Justice O'Connor opinion, Erie v.
Pap's A.M.
, 529 U.S. 277 (2000)]." In practice, it appears that the outer ambit isn't
enough to render distance requirements unconstitutional -- lower courts have tended
to apply the Constitutional tests in ways that are unfavorable to nude dancing, even
when it seems that the obvious application of the test would lead in the other direction
(though the outcomes of cases have varied across Federal court districts.) For critiques
of the current legal situation, see Kevin R. Bruning, "Note: Nudity and Alcohol: Morality
Lies in Public Discussion." Stetson Law Review 29: 775-810, Winter 2000; and Jenna
Doviak and Gina Scamby, "Casenote: Table Dancing Around the First Amendment: The
Constitutionality of Distance Requirements in Colacurio v. City of Kent." Villanova Sports
and Entertainment Law Journal 7: 151-180, 2000.

Incidentally, the rationale for the ordinance, as put forth in the news article linked above,
is that neighbors of strip clubs are complaining about prostitution, drug use (one
suspects that alcohol is the chief problematic drug, though), excessive noise and littered
condoms. Does this ordinance really address those problems?

This is my first attempt at including links in a post. Will Baude of Crescat Sententia,
who inspired this blog, has informed me that blogging is an organic process. Perhaps one
day Vice Squad will actually have a Squad, and useful links on the side, and all the usual
markers of the blogosphere. But embedded links are the current hurdle!

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