Oral Arguments Set for ESPLER Project's Appeal Over Calif. Prostitution Law

Oral Arguments Set for ESPLER Project's Appeal Over Calif. Prostitution Law
Rhett Pardon

SAN FRANCISCO — The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has slated oral arguments for mid-October in ESPLER Project’s challenge to California’s prostitution law.

In 2015, ESPLER Project — known formally as the Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education and Research Project — filed a complaint at U.S. federal court claiming that California’s anti-prostitution statute known as 647(b) of the California Penal Code, unfairly deprives adults the right to private consensual activity, criminalizes the discussion of such activity and unconstitutionally places prohibitions on individuals’ right to freely associate.

Earlier this year, industry attorneys D. Gill Sperlein and H. Louis Sirkin asked the appeals panel to toss a lower court's judgment, remand the case to the lower court and declare the anti-prostitution law unconstitutionality. In the appeal, ESPLER Project also is seeking a permanent injunction.

Last year, an Oakland, Calif., federal judge dismissed the group's suit against California's attorney general and four district attorneys across the state.

The state successfully argued that California’s 55-year-old prostitution statute is a valid regulation of commerce that does not infringe upon any liberty interest of its citizens.

The federal judge determined that the "the intimate association between a prostitute and client, while it may be consensual and cordial, does not merit protection through the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment."

In a brief to the 9th Circuit, ESPLER Project attorneys said that the government should have no interests in prohibiting prostitution. At oral arguments, each side will be allotted 20 minutes before the jurists to make their cases.

The case is supported by amicus briefs from more than 30 civil rights and LGBTQ organizations, including the ACLU, the First Amendment Lawyers Association, the Free Speech Coalition, Transgender Law Center and the Woodhull Freedom Foundation.

ESPLER Project v. Gascon has been primarily funded by small individual donations from supporters and allies through crowdfunding sites such as Crowdrise

ESPLER Project's appeal will be heard before 9th Circuit judges on Thursday, Oct. 19, at 9 a.m. Oral arguments will take place in Room 307 at the James R. Browning Courthouse, 95 7th St., San Francisco, CA 94103.