Santopietro v. Howell

Plaintiff is a street performer. She and her friend were arrested and charged with conducting business without a license, because they were dressed in "sexy cop" outfits on the Las Vegas strip and posed for photos with the officers in exchange for a tip. After the charges were dropped, plaintiff filed suit against the officers, alleging eleven federal and state causes of action. The Ninth Circuit held that the district court erred in granting summary judgment for the officers because the district court misconceived the scope of the applicable First Amendment protections. The record indicated the officers had no evidence before them when they decided to arrest plaintiff that suggested that the "sexy cops" association had any purpose that could have fallen outside the protection of the First Amendment under Berger v. City of Seattle. To infer from plaintiff and her friend's shared costumes and joint performance, alone, an agreement to engage in a regulable transaction impermissibly burdens the right to engage in purely expressive activity and association. The panel held that something more than that constitutionally protected activity is required to justify plaintiff's arrest. Viewing plaintiff's activities separately from her friend's, the panel held that summary judgment for the officers was improper because plaintiff's actions were entirely protected speech. The panel reversed in part and remanded in part. View "Santopietro v. Howell" on Justia Law