Appeals court affirms dismissal of adult-business patron’s civil rights suit

Thursday, December 3, 1998

A federal appeals court has rejected the appeal of a man who filed a civil rights lawsuit against the cities of Apopka and Orlando, Fla., after being stopped by law enforcement officials in his car shortly after leaving an adult business.

Daniel Meyvis contended that agents of a multi-agency task force called the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation unlawfully detained him in December 1996 merely for being a customer of S.O.B.T. Live Shows.

Law enforcement officials said they were investigating unlawful sexual activities, such as masturbation, at the club.

Even though Meyvis' claims primarily center on Fourth Amendment search-and-seizure issues, his attorney, Steven Mason, insists the case has important First Amendment overtones.

“My client was detained merely for being a customer at an adult-oriented business that featured protected First Amendment performance dancing,” he said. “If the police are so concerned with unlawful crime, why don't they target patrons of crack houses or other areas of high crime?

“This is a seminal case, because there is not a reported decision that addresses the issue of wholesale detention of customers of adult businesses,” Mason said.

A federal trial court judge dismissed the claims last June, finding that the officers had reasonable suspicion to question Meyvis. Last week a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed without writing an opinion in Meyvis v. City of Apopka.

Mason objected to the manner in which the court reached its decision.

“These judges should be ashamed of themselves,” he said. “Seventy pages of legal briefs deserve more than a one-page opinion. The law enforcement officials clearly pulled Meyvis over only because they were targeting an adult dance parlor which features performance dancing protected by the First Amendment.”

However, Bruce Bogan, the attorney representing the city of Orlando in the case, said: “The court reached the correct decision. The issue in this case was whether the officers had reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigatory stop. The case of Daniel Meyvis does not involve the First Amendment.”

Mason said he would file a motion for full panel review before the 11th Circuit. If unsuccessful, he vows to file a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.