Supreme Court says Fondi wrong in denying brothel operator’s first amendment rights
Carson District Judge Mike Fondi was wrong in taking David Burgess’s license to operate the Old Bridge Ranch brothel, the Nevada Supreme Court has ruled.
The Storey County Licensing board revoked his license last fall, citing his association with the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club.
He argued in District Court that he was denied due process because he wasn’t notified of the allegations so he could defend himself. He also charged the decision violated his First Amendment rights guaranteeing freedom of association.
Fondi agreed with Storey County and refused to restore Burgess’s license.
Supreme Court Justices Cliff Young, Deborah Agosti and Myron Leavitt, in an opinion issued Wednesday, reversed the district court.
They said the county failed to give Burgess proper notice of the allegations and that he is entitled to due process in any hearing that could revoke the license.
They also said that Burgess was correct in his claim that his First Amendment rights were violated.
The opinion says that right of association is not absolute if the county can show “a compelling governmental interest to justify a restriction on Burgess’s right to associate with the Hell’s Angels.”
But it says none of the evidence at the hearing contained allegations of criminal activity by Burgess.
“The board failed to demonstrate a compelling state interest to justify a restriction on Burgess’s right to associate,” it says.
“Therefore, we conclude that the board violated the First Amendment when it revoked Burgess’s brothel license because of his association with the Hell’s Angels.”
The high court remanded the case to district court, directing Fondi to issue a writ of mandamus ordering Storey County to reinstate Burgess’s brothel license.