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November 04, 2001 10:50am
Free Speech Coalition Chapter Champions First Amendment Before Maryland High Court (2)
Source: Marks & Katz, LLC
by: Company Press Release

(SILVER SPRING, MD) -- The Free Speech Coalition of the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia, a chapter of the national Free Speech Coalition, Inc., has urged the Maryland Court of Appeals to strike down Howard County's adult entertainment zoning ordinance as violating the First Amendment. Over the objections of Howard County, the court has granted the group friend of the court status in the case of The Pack Shack v. Howard County, which has been docketed as Maryland Court of Appeals Case No. 55, September 2001 Term.

The group's friend of the court brief argues that the Howard County adult entertainment zoning ordinance violates the First Amendment by forcing adult retailers, cabarets and other adult businesses to locate into a small number of designated zones that do not provide enough economically feasible locations for current and future businesses. Not only are adult entertainment businesses limited to a small number of zones under this ordinance, but they are further restricted in their location options by being forbidden to locate within 500 feet from residential zoning districts, schools, religious facilities, public libraries, public parks, and public recreational facilities.

Non-adult businesses do not face similar zoning restrictions in Howard County. The FSC of DC, MD and VA's appellate brief argues that Howard County's zoning code unconstitutionally censors adult businesses' First Amendment rights to free expression by improperly focusing on the content of their products. The group rejects Howard County's claim that the ordinance merely seeks to prevent negative secondary effects of adult businesses on crime, real estate values and quality of life. New evidence, even from government studies, shows that criminal activity does not necessarily increase in the presence of adult entertainment businesses. Moreover, the group argues that Howard County has failed to follow the Supreme Court's prohibition on regulating against negative secondary effects without reasonably relying on relevant and accurate secondary effects studies.

The FSC of DC, MD and VA further argues that the Howard County ordinance does not even define adult entertainment businesses in a constitutionally specific manner. For instance, the ordinance defines adult book and video stores as businesses where "a significant or substantial portion of the stock in trade is characterized by an emphasis on matters depicting, describing or relating to sexual activities." This definition does not give sufficient guidance to adult businesses or regulators about the quantity of adult material that qualifies one as an adult business. Moreover, the definition is so overbroad as to include even books and films geared towards improved sexual relationships for married couples, and books documenting the history of adult films and nightclubs.

In this appeal, First Amendment attorneys Jonathan L. Katz of Silver Spring, Maryland, and David A. Wasserman of Winter Park, Florida represent the group pro bono. Jonathan Katz is also the group's President, and David Wasserman is a board member of the national Free Speech Coalition, Inc.

Legal briefs have already been filed by the FSC of DC, MD and VA, as well as by appellant Pack Shack. Howard County's opposing legal brief is due for filing in mid-November 2001. The case will be scheduled for oral argument before the Maryland Court of Appeals.

The full text of the group's amicus brief is at http://www.capitalfsc.org/documents/PACK%20SHACK%20appeal.pdf.

The Free Speech Coalition of the District of Columbia, Maryland And Virginia is a chapter of the Free Speech Coalition, Inc. Its mission is to educate, lobby and support litigation to further the understanding and acceptance of the meaning of the First and Fourth Amendments in general and as they regard adult materials in particular.

For Further Information, Contact:
Jonathan L. Katz, President Free Speech Coalition of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia

1400 Spring Street, Suite 410
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Phone: (301) 495-4300
Fax: (301) 495-8815
E-mail: jonkatz@capitalfsc.org
Web Site: http://www.capitalfsc.org

Jon Katz (admitted in Maryland, DC, and Virginia)
Lawyers for Justice- Criminal Defense/First Amendment Protection
1400 Spring Street, Suite 410
Silver Spring, Maryland 20910
(301) 495-4300
Fax: (301) 495-8815

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