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Judge Doubles Down On Double Entendres In Strip Club Case

The judge's name for the case says quite a bit about his opinion.
The judge's name for the case says quite a bit about his opinion.

In what Huffington Post Business calls "one of the funniest, most eloquent court documents we've ever seen," a federal judge in Texas has loaded up his ruling on a case involving San Antonio strip clubs with at least 17 double entendres.

(We confess that some may have gone over our heads. Feel free do do your own count. WOAI-TV has posted a copy of the ruling here.)

The legal issue was the clubs' request for a preliminary injunction that would block enforcement of a city ordinance. That ordinance requires that exotic dancers in certain establishments wear bikini tops instead of pasties (which, if you're unfamiliar with the term, cover just "the areolae of the female breast," as the ruling states).

In what he called The Case of the Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Bikini Top v. the (More) Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Pastie, Chief U.S. District Judge Fred Biery denied the clubs' request. In doing so, he certainly had some fun writing his opinion:

-- "An ordinance dealing with semi-nude dancers has once again fallen on the Court's lap."

-- "The age old question before the Court, now with constitutional implications is: Does size matter?"

-- "The Court infers Plaintiffs fear enforcement of the ordinance would strip them of their profits, adversely impacting their bottom line."

-- "Plaintiffs, and by extension their customers, seek an erection of a constitutional wall separating themselves from the regulatory power of City government."

-- "While the Court has not received amicus curiae briefs, the Court has been blessed with volunteers known in South Texas as 'curious amigos' to be inspectors general to perform on sight visits at the locations in question."

Then, after ruling that the clubs did not establish that the ordinance would cause them irreparable harm or violate the dancers' First Amendment rights, Judge Biery concludes with this:

"Should the parties choose to string this case out to trial on the merits, the Court encourages reasonable discovery intercourse as they navigate the peaks and valleys of litigation, perhaps to reach a happy ending."

Biery is known for his "rulings peppered with poems, laced with humor and sprinkled with references to baseball," as the San Antonio Express-News reported in 2011. He's also been the target of threats, most notably fora decision in 2011 that barred organized public prayer at a high school. That ruling caught the attention of 2012 Republican presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who called judges like Biery "dictators."

When that case was finally settled and rules were set for how prayers could and could not be included in school functions, Biery wrote a personal statement:

"To the United States Marshal Service and local police who have provided heightened security: Thank you.

"To those Christians who have venomously and vomitously cursed the Court family and threatened bodily harm and assassination: In His name, I forgive you.

"To those who have prayed for my death: Your prayers will someday be answered, as inevitability trumps probability.

"To those in executive and legislative branches of government who have demagogued this case for their own political goals: You should be ashamed of yourselves.

"To the lawyers who have advocated professionally and respectfully for their clients respective positions: Bless you."

Biery was nominated to the bench in 1993 by then-President Clinton and confirmed by the Senate the following year.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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