Village Books v. City of Bellingham

No. C88-1470D (W.D. Wash. Feb. 9, 1989)

Summary:
In 1989, the U.S. District Court struck down the City of Bellingham’s ordinance that provided a cause of action to allow individuals to sue publishers and retailers for producing material containing depictions or descriptions of nudity or sexual activity.

History:
The City of Bellingham enacted an ordinance, which was passed by referendum, that provided a cause of action to allow individuals to sue publishers and retailers for producing material containing depictions or descriptions of nudity or sexual activity. In 1988, plaintiffs challenged the ordinance in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. The City of Bellingham conceded the ordinance was unconstitutional. Washington Women for Civil Rights intervened to defend the law.

On February 9, 1989, the U.S. District Court Judge Carolyn Dimmick held [1] that it was bound by the Supreme Court’s summary affirmance in American Booksellers Association v. Hudnut that found that a virtually identical ordinance violated the First Amendment. In its opinion, the Court also dismissed the defendants’ motion to dismiss for lack of standing.

Plaintiffs:
Village Books, American Booksellers Association, Association of American Publishers, Freedom to Read Foundation, Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, Washington State Library Association, Thomas Sherwood, Dana Johnson Verhey, and Brenda Wilbee