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March 06, 2018

Sandy Springs Anti-Adult Laws Have Their Day In (Supreme) Court

SANDY SPRINGS, Ga.—Before 2005, Sandy Springs was just another way station for commuters and others heading north out of Atlanta through Fulton County, and a fairly free area when it came to adult businesses like strip clubs and adult bookstores—but it was in that year that the town incorporated, and it wasn't long before it brought prominent conservative/anti-porn attorney Scott Bergthold on board to help craft its anti-adult ordinances and regulations affecting zoning, alcohol and business licensing—and later, when some of those ordinances were challenged in court, to rewrite them to try to avoid their being struck down. One of Sandy Springs' longest running disputes has been with the Maxim Cabaret, a local all-nude strip club where alcohol is served, but as far as the city is concerned, Maxim and other local clubs are focal points for alleged secondary effects such as fighting and "prostitution"—otherwise known as "solicitation for an illicit sexual act," by which they actually mean lapdancing. Notably, however, Maxim has yet to be charged in connection with either offense, but that hasn't stopped the city from targeting them anyway—and it's that long-running dispute that was argued in front of the Georgia Supreme Court on Monday. Hence, it's not surprising that in her appearance before the Supreme Court's nine justices, most of whom were originally appointed to their positions by Republican governors (Sonny Purdue, then Nathan Deal) or conservative "Democrat" (and George W. Bush supporter and Fox News contributor) Zell Miller, Maxim's attorney Cory Goldsmith Begner described her lawsuit targeting the Sandy Springs ordinances as one that's been "like a moving target for 12 years." "We eventually ended up having to file eight amendments to our complaint," Begner told AVN. "Every time we would file an amendment, they would change the law." One apparent sticking point during the argument was voiced by Justice David Nahmias who, after Bergthold told the panel that Sandy Springs' laws which prohibit alcohol in clubs like Maxim were "never enforced," asked, "If the city cared, why let it drag out for 12 years without seeking injunctions? It seems somewhat odd." According to a story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Bergthold told the court that was "because of the maze of cases the city has been navigating with several adult businesses," referring in part to several ongoing disputes including the fight against an anti-sex toy ordinance and another suit challenging the city's anti-adult ordinances which was most recently heard before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Bergthold has been at the center of most of the adult use disputes in Georgia for more than a decade, and at one point back in 2010, Begner and her partner Alan Begner had even filed objections to Bergthold being granted temporary admission to the Georgia bar. And while it's unclear how much Sandy Springs has paid Bergthold over the past dozen years, news reports from last March noted that the nearby city of Brookhaven had paid the attorney over $300,000 for defense of an adult ordinance lawsuit filed against it, and that as of June of last year, the city of Dallas had paid Bergthold over $750,000 to defend its anti-Exxxotica ordinance, which was costing Dallas taxpayers about $4,000 per day to defend.

 
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