Salt Lake officials and attorneys for several adult businesses will closely watch a U.S. Supreme Court review of a Dallas ordinance similar to a Salt Lake law regulating sexually oriented businesses.
The high court agreed Monday to decide whether Dallas can enforce some provisions of a 1986 sexually oriented business ordinance. Last year, Salt Lake City passed a similar ordinance based in part on the Dallas law.Salt Lake City's sexually oriented business law has already been through the constitutional ringer and was declared unconstitutional last August. The law was changed after the declaration and the new version has yet to be challenged.
One part of the Dallas law to be examined by the court empowers the city to revoke the license for a sexually oriented business if a proprietor has a prior conviction for a sex-related crime. Salt Lake City has a similar provision.
A city attorney who wrote the ordinance and another attorney representing sexually oriented businesses disagree over the outcome of the Supreme Court's decision to review the law.
"If they (the court) are looking at prior restraint based on a criminal conviction, I'm not too worried about it," Assistant City Attorney Bruce Baird said.
Dallas' list of criminal convictions precluding licenses from being awarded for sexually oriented businesses, the provision the court is reviewing, is "more restrictive" than Salt Lake City's, Baird said.
"That's a minor part of our ordinance anyway," he added. "If we have to change that part it won't cause us a great deal of concern."
"But frankly, looking at the makeup of the Supreme Court . . . you would expect if the court is to take a controversial case, the odds are they're going to the right on the controversial case," he said.
But attorney Jerome Mooney, who represented several sexually oriented businesses in successfully challenging the city's ordinance, said the high court could indeed strike down parts of the Dallas law.
"The Supreme Court is so busy that rarely does it accept a case for purposes of upholding a ruling in the lower court. Instead, they're correcting problems. Acceptance of (a case) is a good sign," he said.
Additionally, in other cases the Supreme Court has been critical of "prior restraint" or revoking licenses of sexually oriented businesses because of prior criminal convictions, Mooney said. "I'm sure prior restraint is going to play a key role," Mooney said.
Review of the Dallas law could provide an opportunity for proprietors of sexually oriented businesses to make Salt Lake City's ordinance "more workable" and also permit a closer legal examination of the Salt Lake law, Mooney said.
"The city has no business regulating morality," he said, "that's not government's job. I think they have a right to engage in reasonable regulation . . . but those regulations cannot be so Draconian as to regulate the business into non-existence."