CITY OF LITTLETON v. Z.J. GIFTS D-4, L.L.C.

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
02-1609
Petitioner 
City of Littleton, Colorado
Respondent 
Z.J. Gifts D-4, L.L.C., a Limited Liability Company, dba Christal's
Advocates
(argued the cause for Petitioner)
(argued the cause for Petitioner)
(argued the cause for Respondent)
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Facts of the Case 

Littleton required adult businesses to apply for a permit to operate from the city. If the city denied the license, the business could appeal to a state district court under the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure. Z.J. Gifts, an adult bookstore, wanted to operate in a place not zoned for adult businesses. Rather than apply for a license, they challenged the licensing law itself as unconstitutional, claiming that the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure provide merely for prompt judicial review of city denial, not for a prompt judicial decision. Because stores denied a license cannot operate until the court has made its decision, they could potentially be forced to wait indefinitely for a license based solely on the content of the material they intend to sell. This, Z.J. argued, violated the Supreme Court's holding in Freedman v. Maryland, 380 U.S. 51, that censorship laws must provide for "prompt judicial determination."

The federal district court sided with Littleton. A Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals panel reversed.

Question 

Did Littleton's adult business licensing ordinance violate the First Amendment protection of Free Speech because it did not guarantee a prompt judicial decision when a business appeals the denial of a license?

Conclusion 
Decision: 9 votes for City of Littleton, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 1: Speech, Press, and Assembly

No. In an opinion by Justice Stephen G. Breyer, the Court held that Colorado did not have to explicitly provide for a "prompt judicial determination" to make the law constitutional. As long as Colorado courts did not unnecessarily delay such claims, the normal judicial review process could be expected to provide a decision quickly enough to satisfy the constitutional demands. If the courts failed to make a prompt decision in a specific case, the business in that particular case could sue, but the absence of explicit "prompt judicial determination" language in the statute did not make it unconstitutional.

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CITY OF LITTLETON v. Z.J. GIFTS D-4, L.L.C.. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 23 October 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2003/2003_02_1609>.
CITY OF LITTLETON v. Z.J. GIFTS D-4, L.L.C., The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2003/2003_02_1609 (last visited October 23, 2014).
"CITY OF LITTLETON v. Z.J. GIFTS D-4, L.L.C.," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed October 23, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2003/2003_02_1609.