San Diego judge refuses to throw out civil rights lawsuit filed by strippers

A federal judge in San Diego has refused to throw out a civil rights lawsuit filed by nude dancers against the Police Department and its vice officers.

Judge M. James Lorenz rejected a request by the city attorney to dismiss a lawsuit filed by attorney Daniel Gilleon on behalf of nude dancers at Cheetahs.

His decision could lead to a trial with contrasting testimony by strippers and vice officers about what happened when the officers conducted inspections of Cheetahs lasting four hours on one occasion and 2-1/2 hours on another.

Lorenz, in an eight-page decision, rejected the city attorney's assertion that the statute of limitations makes the civil rights allegations moot.

Gilleon said the Police Department is learning "that even strippers have 4th Amendment rights."

Gilleon asserts the dancers' 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure, and their 1st Amendment freedom of speech rights, were violated by police when the dancers were forced to remain nude or semi-nude so police "could ostensibly photograph their tattoos."

"The police should focus on crime, not when, where, and why women are taking their clothes off," Gilleon said.

Last week, another judge upheld the city's decision to revoke the nude entertainment permit of Cheetahs owner Suzanne Coe on the basis that vice officers have seen numerous instances of the dancers violating city rules against them touching or fondling patrons, or patrons touching or fondling the dancers.

City code requires nude dancers to stay six feet away from patrons. Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman says the city's rules are needed to thwart prostitution, money laundering, lewd acts and the degradation of neighborhoods.

An appeal is planned of the license revocation. Cheetahs can remain open during that appeal.

Cheetahs has long been controversial.

In 2003, three City Council members were indicted on charges of taking campaign contributions from the then-owner in exchange for promising to convince the council to lift the no-touching and no-fondling rules.

"It's nice to know some things always remain the same in San Diego--Chargers want a new stadium, Democrats can't figure out how to win the mayorship, and strip club owners always want to push the legal limits," said Carl Luna, political science professor at San Diego Mesa College.

At least this time, he noted, no one has been indicted.

"There does seem to be a learning curve on the City Council," he said.

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