City of Erie v. Pap’s A.M. Case Analysis

Facts of the Case

“The City of Erie, Pennsylvania enacted a public indecency ordinance that prohibited knowingly or intentionally appearing in public in a “state of nudity.” In order to comply with this ordinance, dancers at an Erie establishment, which featured female nude dancing, had to wear, at a minimum, “pasties” and a “G-string.” Two days after the ordinance went into effect, the corporation which operated the nude dancing establishment filed a complaint against the City of Erie, the mayor, and members of the city council, seeking declaratory relief and a permanent injunction against the enforcement of the ordinance. The Court of Common Pleas of Erie County granted the permanent injunction, and struck down the ordinance as unconstitutional. On cross appeals, the Commonwealth Court reversed the trial court’s order. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted review and reversed, reasoning that the ordinance’s public nudity provisions violated the corporation’s right to freedom of expression as protected by the Federal Constitution’s First and Fourteenth Amendments. Furthermore, the state supreme court held that nude dancing was expressive conduct entitled to some quantum of protection under the First Amendment and that the ordinance in question was content based and thus subject to strict scrutiny.”




“No. In an opinion delivered by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the Court held that Erie’s public indecency ordinance did not violate any cognizable First Amendment protections of expressive conduct. In splintered voting that did not yield a majority opinion, Justice O’Connor wrote for the Court that, “[e]ven if Erie’s public nudity ban has some minimal effect on the erotic message by muting that portion of the expression that occurs when the last stitch is dropped, the dancers… are free to perform wearing pasties and G-strings.” “The requirement… is a minimal restriction in furtherance of the asserted government interests, and the restriction leaves ample capacity to convey the dancers’ erotic message.””

Case Information

Citation: 529 US 277 (2000)
Argued: Nov 10, 1999
Decided: Mar 29, 2000
Case Brief: 2000