New Jersey 'Boardwalk' Judge: Hands Off Butt Billboard

By Jason Beahm on February 15, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The New Jersey Transit authority wanted to take down an Atlantic City billboard that featured "near nudity," but a Superior Court judge said not so fast.

In an interesting twist, the judge in the case, Judge Nelson Johnson, authored the book Boardwalk Empire, about Atlantic City during prohibition. The book went on to become an HBO series.

The Atlantic City billboard is on New Jersey Transit land to advertise the Resorts Casino and the new musical Moonshine, about the 1920s. The specific location is along the Atlantic City Expressway over a NJ Transit train station. The sign features a women's derriere covered with only a very thin beaded skirt. One can certainly see a nude behind, though it is hardly explicit.

However, some residents complained about the billboard. For example, "My kids are learning what's normal and what's not normal ... and I don't want them to look at this picture and think that it's normal, because it's not normal," said Keisha Howard, NBC40 reports.

Of course casino owner Dennis Gomes had quite a different take:

"We have this 1920s show being specially created for us with beautiful women with great bodies in it. It's all about the music and dancing of the '20s. There was a whole social revolution going on in the 1920s, particularly regarding women. They were dancing in public, which they had never been allowed to do before."

Gomes continued,

"I've got five kids and they've seen butts all their lives and they all turned out fine," he says. "When you go to the beach, you see women in G-strings all the time. In Europe, they go topless. I really don't understand what all the fuss is about," said Gomes, the Associated Press reports.

An interesting question here is whether the "Boardwalk Empire judge" should recuse himself due to a potential conflict of interest. Generally speaking, there is no bright line rule as to when a judge should recuse themselves. In this case, the show Moonshine is based on a book written by Judge Johnson. While there is no direct evidence of Judge Johnson having any financial stake in the show, his connection to the case at least presents the potential for the appearance of impropriety.

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