Unless they happen to be the city of Dallas' paid defense attorneys, it's hard to find a lawyer who thinks the city of Dallas has a shot at winning the lawsuit brought by Three Expo Events following the City Council decision to ban the Three Expo's Exxxotica sex show from the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.
Warren Ernst, Dallas' city attorney, isn't representing the city in the case because he'd already issued an opinion saying that the council's potential banning of Exxxotica was unconstitutional before the council did it anyway. Scott Griggs and Philip Kingston, both lawyers and both council members, were strongly against the ban. Kingston said Dallas' best strategy in the case was to "give up as quickly as possible." When asked to handicap the outcome of the suit, Dallas appellate lawyer Chad Ruback said that, despite the city's response to the suit — which includes lurid descriptions of alleged illegal acts at Exxxotica 2015 — Dallas, the mayor and the seven additional council members who voted for the ban are going to get "spanked."
No one was arrested for any of the alleged bad acts at last year's convention, Ruback says, and any attempted pre-emption of anything that might happen this year would amount to a prior restraint of constitutionally protected speech, something courts frown upon. It's not enough, he said, that the city didn't ban Exxxotica outright from the city limits. Because Dallas is in the convention business and the convention center is the only space the city provides for that business to be conducted, the city must allow the convention hall to be used for all legal speech, Ruback says.
The mayor doesn't view things through the same lens.
"We came to a place as a city where I had to make a judgement call. The reason I made it was because I saw some of the YouTube [videos from last year's event] and said, 'Look, I'm mayor of this city, I'm against domestic violence and we've got an S&M thing going on. How do I feel about it? I've gotta vote against that and let the judges do their job," Rawlings said. "We've got insurance on this, we self-insure, so we're not taking money away from the streets or poor hungry children, this is why we put an insurance package together over [at the convention center] for that enterprise fund and we'll let the judges make the call and we'll move on down the road."
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Rawlings says he's asking questions about why those at the 2015 convention who might have committed public obscenity violations weren't arrested, too.
"I knew that our police activity was really limited. ... When the [Dallas Police Vice Squad] was there, they were just there for an hour here and an hour there to make sure nobody was dead," Rawlings said. "This stuff was happening in corners. Look, we should've found that out, but the bigger thing is, a company entered into a contract saying that wasn't going to happen and it did happen.
"We have the authority [to instruct the city manager not to enter into contracts]. I'm not saying that authority will hold up in court in this case. I'll honor a judge's point of view there, but there's enough logic that [Exxxotica] is a sexually oriented business. It's like saying, 'Oh my God, there's gambling in Casablanca.' Really, it's amazing to think 'Oh my God, there's nudity at a porn convention. I'm so shocked.' It's like, 'Of course there is.'" Rawlings said.
As a temporary use of the convention center, both Ernst and Ruback have said that the city's sexually oriented business ordinance does not apply to Exxxotica. Exxxotica's response to the city's filing in the case is due in about 10 days.