Organizer Loses Fight to Hold Porn Expo in Dallas

DALLAS (CN) – A Texas federal judge tossed a pornography trade show organizer’s free-speech lawsuit against Dallas late Thursday on a technicality, concluding the wrong entity filed suit against a resolution banning the show from being held at a city-owned convention center.

U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater dismissed Exxxotica organizer Three Expo Events’ lawsuit without prejudice for lack of standing. Three Expo sued Dallas in February 2016, arguing its First Amendment rights were violated when the City Council voted to ban the event as an impermissible use of a public facility under City Code.

Dallas disagreed, saying it had the right to ban the show due to lewd acts that allegedly took place at the first Exxxotica show held at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in 2015. The city claimed “fondling and touching of breasts and simulated sexual intercourse by oral sodomy” at the show amounted to public lewdness under state law.

On Thursday, Fitzwater declined to rule on Three Expo’s core free-speech claims. Instead, the judge concluded the city’s ban does not “threaten imminent harm” because Three Expo was not the entity that entered into a contract with Dallas for the 2015 show.

An entity called Exotica Dallas contracted with the city. Three Expo has insisted Exotica Dallas was its affiliate.

“The [city council] resolution clearly and unambiguously directs the City Manager ‘to not enter into a contract with Three Expo Events, LLC, for the lease of the Dallas Convention Center,’” the 25-page opinion states. “It does not prohibit the City Manager from entering into a contract with any other entity, including Exotica Dallas. Three Expo admits in its written discovery responses and in deposition testimony that it has never entered into a contract with any city for any Exxxotica event and that it has no intention of doing so in the future.” (Emphasis in original.)

The ban does not prevent the plaintiff from holding a show at the convention center as long as the city contracts with a party other than Three Expo, the judge wrote.

“In sum, the only injuries Three Expo alleges are those resulting from the nonoccurrence of the 2016 Exxxotica expo,” the opinion states. “But Three Expo has failed to show that it was the resolution that prevented the 2016 Exxxotica event from occurring.”

Fitzwater initially rejected Three Expo’s request for a preliminary injunction against the ban in April 2016. He concluded at the time the city’s ban is both “reasonable and viewpoint neutral” and that the convention center is a limited public forum.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and the nonprofit Dallas Citizens Council intervened in the lawsuit on the city’s behalf last year, arguing in an amicus brief that the convention center is a nonpublic forum because it is a “commercial enterprise” meant to promote economic development in the city.

He applauded the dismissal Friday afternoon.

“It is vital that governmental entities have the ability to exclude sexually-oriented businesses from property that they own,” Paxton said in a written statement. “The City of Dallas, through its democratically-elected officials, rightfully decided that its convention center and taxpayer monies should not be home to an event where obscenity and criminal activity occurs.”

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