City of Los Angeles v. Alameda Books, Inc.

PETITIONER: City of Los Angeles
RESPONDENT: Alameda Books, Inc.
LOCATION: Los Angeles City Hall

DOCKET NO.: 00-799
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 535 US 425 (2002)
ARGUED: Dec 04, 2001
DECIDED: May 13, 2002

ADVOCATES:
John H. Weston - Argued the cause for the respondent
Michael L. Klekner - Los Angeles, California argued the cause for the petitioner

Facts of the case

Based on its 1977 study concluding that concentrations of adult entertainment establishments are associated with higher crime rates in surrounding communities, the city of Los Angeles enacted Municipal Code section 12.70(C), which prohibited such enterprises within 1,000 feet of each other. The city later amended the ordinance to prohibit more than one adult entertainment business in the same building. Alameda Books, Inc. and Highland Books, Inc., two adult establishments that openly operate combined bookstores/video arcades, sued, alleging that the ordinance violates the First Amendment. Finding that the ordinance was not a content-neutral regulation of speech, the District Court reasoned that the 1977 study did not support a reasonable belief that multiple-use adult establishments produce the secondary effects the city asserted as content-neutral justifications for its prohibition. In affirming, the Court of Appeals found that, even if the ordinance were content neutral, the city failed to present evidence upon which it could reasonably rely to demonstrate that its regulation of multiple-use establishments was designed to serve its substantial interest in reducing crime.

Question

May a city rely on a study it conducted to demonstrate whether an ordinance serves a substantial government interest?

Media for City of Los Angeles v. Alameda Books, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 04, 2001 in City of Los Angeles v. Alameda Books, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - May 13, 2002 in City of Los Angeles v. Alameda Books, Inc.

William H. Rehnquist:

The second case I have to announce is No. 00-799 Los Angeles versus Alameda Books, Inc.

This case comes to us from the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The City of Los Angeles conducted a study which found that concentrations of adult establishment are associated with higher crime rates than surrounding communities.

In response, the city enacted an ordinance that prohibited the location of adult establishments or structures within a thousand feet of each other.

Because the ordinance had a loophole that permitted multiple adult operations within the same structure, the city amended the ordinance to prohibit the placement of more than one adult operation in the same building.

Respondents who owned adult establishments that operate and adult bookstore and adult video arcade on the same premises filed a 1983 suit alleging that the ordnance violates the First Amendment.

The Ninth Circuit agreed evaluating the cities ordinance under our precedent in Renton v. Playtime Theatres.

The Court of Appeals held that the city failed to present evidence upon which it could reasonably rely to demonstrate that its regulation of multiple youth establishments was designed to serve a substantial interest in reducing crime.

In an opinion authored by Justice O’Connor, we now reverse.

The City’s 1977 study found that concentrations of adult establishments are correlated with crime.

The study did not explain why that was but adult establishments house adult operations so concentrations of adult establishments are also concentrations of adult operations albeit in separate structures.

Therefore, this 1977 Study’s finding is consistent with the City’s view that it is concentration of adult operations and not merely concentrations of separate buildings that house individual adult operations that generate crime.

This view explains the City’s restriction on concentrations of not just adult establishments but of also in any adult operation.

Therefore, at this stage of the party’s litigation which is before us on summary judgment, we conclude that the city may reasonably rely on its 1977 study to demonstrate a connection between the speech it seems to regulate and its substantial interest in reducing crime.

Justice Scalia has filed a concurring opinion; Justice Kennedy has filed an opinion concurring in the judgment; Justice Souter has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Stevens and Justice Ginsburg have joined and in which Justice Breyer has joined at the part 2.