October 9, 2014

City of Indianapolis 0, local adult bookstores $1,000,000 (or more)


SCOTUS to city:  ¯\_(シ)_/¯ (Image via Wikipedia)

SCOTUS to city: ¯\_(シ)_/¯ (Image via Wikipedia)

Gay marriage isn’t the only gift that the Supreme Court just gave (well, didn’t take away) from Indianapolis. The Indiana Star reports that they also denied the city’s request to hear the case of Annex Books, Inc. v. City of Indianapolis, in which several adult bookstores sued the city over a restrictive ordinance.

The 2003 ordinance was effectively a blue law that barred adult bookstores from operating on Sundays or between midnight and 10 AM. The city’s justification was that is when crimes adjacent or involving the stores were more likely to occur. While this conjurs the delightful image of adult bookstores packed with bankers making late-night calls to report false interest rates, the local bookstores were not amused. Four of them sued the city, though only three are still in business.

As you can imagine, it took a while for the case to wind its way (almost) to the Supreme Court—after the district court ruled against the stores in 2013, the stores’ attorney wisely went for the First Amendment angle on appeal. 7th circuit judge Frank Easterbrook agreed, calling bullshit on the city’s claim to crime reduction. His ruling, which muses on the dangers of porn vs. newspapers and with the kind of gorgeously dry language that make obscenity-related trials such popcorn material, is quite lovely and concise.

Now that SCOTUS has swatted away the city’s request for certiorari, and with Judge Easterbrook’s previous injunction against the ordinance still in place, the bookstores can stay open 24 hours a day and are also entitled to sue for damages, both for the business lost while the ordinance was enforced (’05 to ’09) as well as their legal fees, which after this much time are expected to be rather hefty.

And the city is quite aware of this, thus the bid for certiorari:

The city said in its Supreme Court appeal that it could be hit with a multimillion-dollar claim unless the Supreme Court sided with the city. The city has estimated that damages could exceed $1 million because of how long the case has been pending and because the adult bookstores will be entitled to be reimbursed for their legal fees.

We at MobyLives, fans of all indie bookstore porn and non-porn, sincerely urge the City of Indianapolis to take this loss as an opportunity, and to quickly open a municipally funded and staffed adult bookstore on prime city property. It’ll defray the damages, and it’s not like there isn’t a precedent!


Liam O'Brien is the Sales & Marketing Manager at Melville House, and a former bookseller.