Scott Wellman/Stuart M. Miller
Wellman & Warren, Laguna Hills Age: 54/55
Admitted to Bar: 1978/ 1995
Representing adult nightclubs these days can be a thankless task for First Amendment lawyers, with recent court decisions often going in favor of cities and counties that claim the clubs are magnets for crime and antisocial behavior. But Wellman and Miller last year pulled off a rare victory in a marathon legal battle with the city of La Habra.
The two attorneys represented Badi “Bill” Gammoh, who first clashed with the city in 1995 when he applied for a license to open the Taboo Gentlemen’s Club. The city tried to shut him down for violating its anti-lap dance ordinance, but an appeals court found the ordinance unconstitutional in 2002. At a trial that began in July, Wellman and Miller argued that their client was entitled to damages for the business he lost while the lap-dance ban was in effect. “It really hurt the business,” says Wellman.
A month into the trial, La Habra called it quits, agreeing to pay Gammoh $5.2 million to get out of town. The settlement included $3 million for the Taboo building. Wellman says jurors told him they would have awarded Gammoh even more. “They were outraged,” he says. “I was surprised that Orange County jurors would be so offended at what the city did.” Gammoh still has his club in Anaheim after winning a $2 million settlement from that city in 2002. Both Wellman and Miller see clubs such as Taboo as the “frontier” of the fight for free speech. “If they are regulated,” says Miller, “Victoria’s Secret is regulated, R-rated movies are regulated. You have to draw the line.”
“The next time Wellman warns, “it’s going to be bikinis on the beach.”
Matthew Heller is a freelance writer specializing in legal affairs.