Los Angeles v. Alameda Books, Inc.
535 U.S. 425 (2002)

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OCTOBER TERM, 2001

Syllabus

CITY OF LOS ANGELES v. ALAMEDA BOOKS, INC., ETAL.

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT

No. 00-799. Argued December 4, 200l-Decided May 13,2002

Based on its 1977 study concluding that concentrations of adult entertainment establishments are associated with higher crime rates in surrounding communities, petitioner city enacted an ordinance prohibiting such enterprises within 1,000 feet of each other or within 500 feet of a religious institution, school, or public park. Los Angeles Municipal Code § 12.70(C) (1978). Because the ordinance's method of calculating distances created a loophole permitting the concentration of multiple adult enterprises in a single structure, the city later amended the ordinance to prohibit "more than one adult entertainment business in the same building." § 12.70(C) (1983). Respondents, two adult establishments that openly operate combined bookstores/video arcades in violation of § 12.70(C), as amended, sued under 42 U. S. C. § 1983 for declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that the ordinance, on its face, violates the First Amendment. Finding that the ordinance was not a content-neutral regulation of speech, the District Court reasoned that neither the 1977 study nor a report cited in Hart Book Stores v. Edmisten, a Fourth Circuit case upholding a similar statute, supported a reasonable belief that multiple-use adult establishments produce the secondary effects the city asserted as content-neutral justifications for its prohibition. Subjecting § 12.70(C) to strict scrutiny, the court granted respondents summary judgment because it felt the city had not offered evidence demonstrating that its prohibition was necessary to serve a compelling government interest. The Ninth Circuit affirmed on the different ground that, even if the ordinance were content neutral, the city failed to present evidence upon which it could reasonably rely to demonstrate that its regulation of multiple-use establishments was designed to serve its substantial interest in reducing crime. The court therefore held the ordinance invalid under Renton v. Playtime Theatres, Inc., 475 U. S. 41.

Held: The judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded. 222 F.3d 719, reversed and remanded.

JUSTICE O'CONNOR, joined by THE CHIEF JUSTICE, JUSTICE SCALIA, and JUSTICE THOMAS, concluded that Los Angeles may reasonably rely


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on its 1977 study to demonstrate that its present ban on multipleuse adult establishments serves its interest in reducing crime. Pp. 433-443.

(a) The 1977 study's central component is a Los Angeles Police Department report indicating that, from 1965 to 1975, crime rates for, e. g., robbery and prostitution grew much faster in Hollywood, which had the city's largest concentration of adult establishments, than in the city as a whole. The city may reasonably rely on the police department's conclusions regarding crime patterns to overcome summary judgment. In finding to the contrary on the ground that the 1977 study focused on the effect on crime rates of a concentration of establishments-not a concentration of operations within a single establishment-the Ninth Circuit misunderstood the study's implications. While the study reveals that areas with high concentrations of adult establishments are associated with high crime rates, such areas are also areas with high concentrations of adult operations, albeit each in separate establishments. It was therefore consistent with the 1977 study's findings, and thus reasonable, for the city to infer that reducing the concentration of adult operations in a neighborhood, whether within separate establishments or in one large establishment, will reduce crime rates. Neither the Ninth Circuit nor respondents nor the dissent provides any reason to question the city's theory. If this Court were to accept their view, it would effectively require that the city provide evidence that not only supports the claim that its ordinance serves an important government interest, but also does not provide support for any other approach to serve that interest. Renton specifically refused to set such a high bar for municipalities that want to address merely the secondary effects of protected speech. The Court there held that a municipality may rely on any evidence that is "reasonably believed to be relevant" for demonstrating a connection between speech and a substantial, independent government interest. 475 U. S., at 51-52. This is not to say that a municipality can get away with shoddy data or reasoning. The municipality's evidence must fairly support its rationale for its ordinance. If plaintiffs fail to cast direct doubt on this rationale, either by demonstrating that the municipality's evidence does not support its rationale or by furnishing evidence that disputes the municipality's factual findings, the municipality meets the Renton standard. If plaintiffs succeed in casting doubt on a municipality's rationale in either manner, the burden shifts back to the municipality to supplement the record with evidence renewing support for a theory that justifies its ordinance. See, e. g., Erie v. Pap's A. M., 529 U. S. 277, 298. This case is at a very early stage in this process. It arrives on a summary judgment motion by respondents defended only by complaints that the 1977 study fails to prove that the city's justification for its ordinance is nec-


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Full Text of Opinion

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