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U.S. News

Appeals Court Ends Tattoo Parlor Ban in Calif. City

September 10, 2010

On Thursday, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a southern California city's ban on tattoo parlors. Tattooing is a form of artistic expression and is thus entitled to free speech protection under the U.S. Constitution, the three-judge panel ruled unanimously.

Though several state courts and federal trial courts have upheld similar prohibitions in other U.S. cities, the decision now makes such bans unconstitutional in the nine western states that must comply with 9th Circuit rulings.

The city of Hermosa Beach had argued that tattoo parlors threaten public health and attract a crime-prone clientele. "The Hermosa Beach City Council places a priority on protecting the public's health and safety, and it adopted this ordinance because of the potential health hazards caused by unsanitary tattoo practices," said the city's attorney, Michael Jenkins.

In 2007, Johnny Anderson sued the city after it refused to let him relocate his Yer Cheat'n Heart Tattoo studio from Gardena to Hermosa Beach, which is closer to his home and family. Anderson said Hermosa Beach officials have "an outdated notion that only sailors and fallen women get tattoos, which isn't the case. Everybody gets a tattoo these days."

Circuit Judge Jay Bybee, writing for the panel, called the city's ban "substantially broader than necessary to achieve the city's significant health and safety interests and because it entirely forecloses a unique and important method of expression." The ban represents an unconstitutional overreaction to health concerns that can be addressed through regulations, the court said.

The U.S. Supreme Court is unlikely to hear the case, said Jesse Choper, a free speech expert and law professor at the University of California-Berkeley, who noted that Bybee is a politically conservative judge.

Back to other news for September 2010

Adapted from:
Associated Press
09.09.2010; Paul Elias

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More on HIV/AIDS-Related Legal Cases

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