Court to Hear Oral Arguments in ESPLER Project's Appeal on Oct. 19

Court to Hear Oral Arguments in ESPLER Project's Appeal on Oct. 19
Rhett Pardon

SAN FRANCISCO — The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has slated oral arguments for Thursday, Oct. 19, in ESPLER Project’s challenge to California’s prostitution law.

Oral arguments will be heard at the 9th Circuit's courthouse in San Francisco.

Two years ago, ESPLER Project — known formally as the Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education and Research Project — filed a complaint at U.S. federal court claiming that the state’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.

The case is supported by amicus briefs from over 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. 

The appeal is based on a decision last year by a federal judge dismissed the group's suit against California's attorney general and four district attorneys across the state.

Each side will be allotted 20 minutes to make its case. 

Defendants successfully argued that its 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 in the case 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.

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

ESPLER Project officials are planning a press conference after oral arguments.

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.