A federal judge ruled today that the Dallas City Council is within its rights to ban the Exxxotica convention from the city-owned Kay Bailey Hutchison center.
Mayor Mike Rawlings — who spearheaded the ban in response to protesters and billionaires and the woman who the convention center is named after — says District 10’s Adam McGough’s mad legal skills played a significant role in this first-round win for the city. He acknowledges that the case is not over and that this ruling does not guarantee what will happen at trial.
Though the sexually oriented trade show made its Dallas debut at the same convention center last summer, seven of eight Dallas City Council members in February took a stand against its return this summer.
Exxxotica in response filed for a preliminary injunction, which U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater denied. In a 32-page opinion, the judge wrote that the council’s decision to ban Exxxotica from the convention center was “both reasonable and viewpoint neutral.” He wrote that “at least some of the content of the Exxxotica expo is protected under the First Amendment,” but he concluded the city was exerting control over a building it owns that “is rented for commercial purposes …” and that the convention center is “a limited public forum” over which the city has final say.
Exxxotica can appeal the ruling or let the case go to trial.
Councilman Philip Kingston, who has been outspoken about the ban since the vote, told the Morning News he is “terrified” by the ruling, because it could now put Dallas on the hook for damages if Exxxotica wins either on appeal or at trial. He also said he believes it’s possible, if not likely, a court will disagree with Fitzwater’s opinion about what constitutes a public forum and viewpoint discrimination. “Judge Fitzwater’s opinion says the government can build any forum it wants and set the rules for who can use it,” said the council member. “And this most assuredly was a decision based on viewpoint discrimination.”
Councilman Scott Griggs, also an opponent of the ban, also remains convinced that it is a bad idea. He told the Morning News he is worried Fitzwater’s opinion will do nothing more than extend a case that’s already cost the city $250,000 — and counting — on outside attorneys, hired because Dallas’ own in-house counsel had already warned the council not to vote for the ban. “I am deeply concerned for taxpayers because now this litigation is going to continue,” he said. “It’s been costing us $4,000 a day.”
Dallas Citizens Council member Alice Murray responded that it is a worthwhile price to pay to protect the city’s brand.
Rawlings sent out a public notice (which emphasized that he will not be available for interviews on this matter) praising the “seven city council members who had the courage to support this ban.”
Following the ban, many (be it in comments sections, social media and letters to the editors of various publications) lamented the waste of money that could be spent on better things and predicted a swift loss in court. Rawlings included a graph dedicated to those people.
“Many have criticized the city council’s decision and the cost to defend it. They predicted a quick loss in the courtroom. They were wrong.”
He credits District 10’s Adam McGough, “an attorney whose sound legal argument at the city council horseshoe regarding the application of our city’s Sexually Oriented Business Ordinance” with providing a “key component of our defense in court.”
We sought comment from McGough earlier this week, but his assistant let us know he suffered a minor medical emergency that required a trip to the ER and would not be able to talk for a few days (he is OK now, she assured). He did, however, take to Facebook to let his followers know that round one went to “the good guys.”