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The court split 4-3, with the dissenting judges saying there's no distinction in state law between "highbrow dance and lowbrow dance," so the case raises "significant constitutional problems."
The lawsuit was filed by Nite Moves in suburban Albany, which was arguing fees for admission to the strip club and for private dances are exempt from sales taxes.
The court majority said taxes apply to many entertainment venues, such as amusement parks and sporting events. It ruled the club has failed to prove it qualifies for the exemption for "dramatic or musical arts performances" that was adopted by the Legislature "with the evident purpose of promoting cultural and artistic performances in local communities."
If ice shows with intricately choreographed ice-dancing routines to music haven't been regarded by lawmakers as qualifying, then it was "surely ... not irrational" for a court "to conclude that a club presenting performances by women gyrating on a pole to music, however artistic or athletic their practiced moves are, was also not a qualifying performance entitled to exempt status," wrote Judges Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick, Victoria Graffeo, Eugene Pigott Jr. and Theodore Jones Jr.
In the dissent, Judge Robert Smith wrote that it was a question of what the law and regulations actually say. The law defines a "dramatic or musical arts admission charge" for "a live dramatic, choreographic or musical performance," he noted. Choreography means dance, and clearly the women at Nite Moves dance, he wrote.
"The majority implies that since the Legislature did not exclude from the entertainment tax other lowbrow forms of entertainment, such as baseball games and animal acts ... it would not have wanted to exclude pole dancing; but the issue is not what the Legislature would have wanted to do, but what it did," Judge Smith wrote. Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and Judge Susan Read agreed.
Judge Smith added that while he finds this sort of dancing "unedifying-indeed, I am stuffy enough to find it distasteful," discriminating on the basis of content such as imposing a tax on Hustler magazine and giving the New Yorker an exemption "would surely be unconstitutional. It is not clear to me why the discrimination that the majority approves in this case stands on any firmer constitutional footing."
Calls to the attorney for the club and to the tax department were not immediately returned Tuesday.
Wednesday, October 24 2012, 12:44 AM CDT
Faith leaders asked to help members get legal help
June 19, 2013 15:44 GMT
(Eds: APNewsNow. Will be updated.) By TRAVIS LOLLER Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- A group in Tennessee is using faith leaders to connect people in need of legal help with attorneys willing to provide free services.
The faith-based initiative of Tennessee's Access to Justice Commission aims to reach people at a place they already go for help: their churches, mosques and synagogues. Faith leaders then put needy members in touch with participating attorneys.
The Legal Services Corp. estimates that fewer than one in ?ve low-income people in the U.S. get the legal assistance they need.
Various programs exist to bridge this gap, but experts say there's nothing quite like the Tennessee initiative. In part, that's because it recognizes that many people who could use an attorney's help won't seek legal aid because they don't see their problem as a legal one.
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