A distributor of sex-oriented newspapers must abide by a Simi Valley ordinance and partially cover his news racks to protect minors, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
Arthur Fishel must also pay the city a permit fee of $30 for each of his 14 news racks, which display such adult publications as Hollywood Press and Action, said U.S. District Judge Irving Hill.
The judge’s ruling came in response to a lawsuit Fishel filed Friday claiming that the city’s ordinance is unconstitutional because it violates his First Amendment right to free speech.
The judge denied a request by Fishel to prohibit the city from enforcing its ordinance until the court rules on the merits of the case. Fishel can ask the judge to reconsider the ruling at an April 17 hearing, at which the city will request that the case be dismissed, said Bert H. Deixler, an attorney for Simi Valley.
Fishel, a Simi Valley sanitation worker who lives in Canoga Park, could not be reached for comment. He distributes the publications under the business name Dinosaur Enterprises.
The city passed its “blinder” ordinance in June. It requires that the bottom two-thirds of each news rack displaying adult publications, which usually feature pictures of women, be covered to protect minors, Councilwoman Ann Rock said. The ordinance was prompted by citizens complaints about the display of “obscene material,” she said.
Code enforcement officials then contended that Fishel violated the ordinance and also failed to pay permit fees, which are levied against all newspaper distributors regardless of the nature of their publications, Rock said.
The city attorney’s office this week charged Fishel with seven misdemeanor counts each of failing to pay the fees and of violating the blinder ordinance, City Atty. John P. Torrance said. Fishel will be arraigned April 12 in Ventura Municipal Court, Torrance said.
Fishel also faces disciplinary action from the city for violating a city policy requiring employees to seek approval from their supervisors before obtaining any outside employment, said Laura Wylie, the city’s personnel administrator.
The city manager’s office has deemed Fishel’s job as a distributor of sex-oriented newspapers as inappropriate, Wylie said. If Fishel continues, he is subject to a range of penalties--from a reprimand to dismissal, depending on the city manager’s assessment of the case, Wylie said.