A tattoo artist, James Real, wanted to open a parlor in Long Beach, California. However, Long Beach’s zoning ordinance restricted the location of tattoo parlors and required a conditional use permit. Real sued the City arguing that its zoning laws restricted his First Amendment rights. The district court ruled in favor of the City and Real appealed.
On appeal, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court, and held that Real did have standing to challenge the zoning restrictions on tattoo parlors. Real v. City of Long Beach (9th Cir. Mar. 29,2017). The Court found that Real sufficiently alleged that the ordinance impermissibly restricts an activity protected by the First Amendment and that there would be a creditable threat of prosecution if he opens the tattoo parlor without obtaining the required conditional use permit. The Court held that he did not have to wait until he was denied a conditional use to challenge the ordinance.
In addition, the Court held that the City’s conditional use process gave government officials too much discretion over protected activity (expressive speech) and did not provide any procedural safeguards, which amounted to a prior restraint on speech.
The Court remanded the case back to the district court for further proceedings on Real's claim that the City ordinance was an unlawful time, place, and manner restriction.
Post Authored by Amanda Riggs & Julie Tappendorf