Dan Gilleon answers questions on the case alongside former Cheetahs dancer Renee L. (left)  and Mallory M.
Dan Gilleon answers questions on the police-raid case in March 2017 alongside former Cheetahs dancer Renee L. (left) and Mallory M. Photo by Ken Stone

Nearly five years after the first of a series of police raids on San Diego strip clubs, a federal judge Friday ruled that a Municipal Code section allowing such “inspections” is illegal.

Judge James Lorenz ruling on strip-club raids. (PDF)
Judge James Lorenz ruling on strip-club raids. (PDF)

Judge James Lorenz ruled against the City of San Diego on First Amendment grounds.

Still to be decided: Whether the city broke Fourth Amendment prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures.

“We won our request that the court strike the Municipal Code provision on inspections,” said Dan Gilleon, a lawyer for the female entertainers.

The court didn’t rule on damages — how much money the dancers get. But Gilleon says there’s no timeline for that decision. A trial on damages is expected, though.

Cheryl Nolan, a spokeswoman for the City Attorney’s Office, told Times of San Diego: “We are reviewing the ruling to determine whether we can seek reconsideration of it.”

Raids at Cheetahs on July 15, 2013, and at Cheetahs and nearby Exposé on March 6, 2014, threw a national spotlight on San Diego police tactics — raising questions about constitutional rights and whether the dancers were held against their will.

In 2013, the civil suit alleges, about 15 San Diego police officers raided Cheetahs, wearing sidearms and bulletproof vests.

“Officers at the doors ordered entertainers who were arriving at Cheetahs to go to the dressing room, change into bra and panties and wait to be photographed and interrogated,” says the April 2015 amended suit seeking monetary damages that could total $1.5 million.

A year ago, dancers’ attorney Gilleon said: “This case is not about money” to compensate women for “humiliation and degradation.”

Instead, he said before settlement talks that went sour, the “mass tort” case was about San Diego Municipal Code section 33.0103, which lets officers conduct inspections during business hours of police-regulated businesses.

The code section is written badly, Gilleon said at the time. Police treated the women like gang members, and violate their Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures, he said.

The women also allege they were held against their will.

In Friday’s 17-page order, Lorenz said the First Amendment was violated on its face by the raids.

“In all other respects, Plaintiffs’ motions for partial judgments on the pleadings are denied,” he wrote. “No judgment shall be entered at this time.”

The San Diego Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.