LOS ANGELES - The ACLU of Southern California announced a settlement today in Lifestyles Organization (LSO) v. Stroh, a case involving an erotic arts exhibition in Palm Springs in late July and early August of 1997. The Department of Alcoholic Beverages Control (ABC) threatened to yank the alcohol license of the host convention center. With the help of the ACLU of Southern California, LSO sought and received a temporary restraining order, and the erotic arts exhibition proceeded as planned, drawing 2,000 attendees. LSO pressed the case, seeking damages, attorney's fees, and a guarantee that ABC would not enforce the regulations against LSO in the future. Earlier this year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling that made it clear that the Department's enforcement of the regulations was unconstitutional. Since that time, the parties in the case have been working towards a settlement. A settlement was announced to the District Court yesterday.
"The Department of Alcoholic Beverages Control was trying to control more than beverages," said Peter Eliasberg, Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Southern California. "The beverage bureaucrats went after speech they thought was inappropriate. That's not their job, and they're not equipped to weigh the Constitutional issues involved. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals made that clear earlier this year. We're pleased that the ABC will cease enforcing these unconstitutional regulations."
The settlement, announced today, requires that ABC cease enforcing against LSO California Administrative Code, ﾌ_143.4 in its entirety and ﾌ_143.3 as it relates to visual arts. the settlement also requires ABC to pay $12,500 dollars in damages to LSO and to pay LSO's attorneys' fees.
"The ABC's license to censor has been revoked," said Dan Tokaji, staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California. "The regulations at issue practically invited abuse by low-level bureaucrats, using the threat of losing a liquor license to stifle free speech. These rules give government the power to restrict public discourse - exactly what our country's founders had in mind when they enacted the Bill of Rights."