No Retroactive Recusal for Stripper-Patronizing Judge

By Robyn Hagan Cain on July 10, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

We've read our fair share of appeals challenging local ordinances banning nude dancing in places where alcohol is sold. The outcome is generally the same everywhere. The appellate court upholds the ordinance, and the club proprietor or stripper tells the local media that he/she will keep fighting the good fight.

Say what you will about strippers and clubs, but they make tenacious litigants.

Last week, it was the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals' turn to strip a nude entertainment club of its appellate-victory dreams, as the Atlanta-based court upheld a Spalding County, Georgia nude dancing ban.

Plaintiffs James Gann and Curves LLC operated an alcohol-selling nightclub in Spalding County, where nude dancing is prohibited in booze-selling establishments. The plaintiffs began challenging the constitutionality of the local ban in 2007, and lost.

Thereafter, Tony Ranieri, a law enforcement officer, would enter Curves to determine whether there was simultaneous live nude entertainment and alcohol-serving.

The court doesn't comment on how long it would take Ranieri to confirm the presence of both boobs and booze, but when each time he witnessed both at Curves, he cited Gann, the manager, for violating the ordinance. That meant near-weekly citations for several months in 2007.

Spalding County's puritanical ways led to Curves' downfall. Curves determined that it could not operate successfully without the ability both to sell alcohol and to offer nude dancing, and went out of business. Curves and Gann then filed an amended complaint, alleging that parts of the original and amended ordinances violated the First Amendment, that is, prevented the club from offering nude dancing. They also asserted a state malicious arrest and federal malicious prosecution claims.

District Judge Jack Camp granted summary judgment to the defendants.

After Judge Camp's rulings in the case, Judge Camp was charged, (and pleaded guilty) in a sordid scandal involving drugs and stripper. Gann and Curves saw a way out of their summary judgment predicament, and asked the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to retroactively recuse Camp.

Retroactive recusal requires that "an objective, fully informed lay observer would entertain significant doubt about the judge's impartiality." The pertinent facts in the present case were not disputed, so Judge Camp's impartiality toward the operative facts didn't affect the outcome.

(Also, isn't it more likely that the strip-club frequenting Judge Camp favor Curves in this case?)

Finding that no record evidence showed that Judge Camp actually had personal bias or prejudice concerning a party, the appellate court denied Curves' retroactive recusal request.

Lesson learned, everyone: you can't overturn summary judgment just because your judge was shady.

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