Retired Porn Star Takes Schoolyard Fight to Supreme Court


A retired porn star turned math tutor is asking the Supreme Court to hear his case, alleging a local school board tried to strip him of his First Amendment rights.

The case is Mech v. Sch. Bd. of Palm Beach Cty., Fla., No. 15-1412.

David Benoit Mech —a math tutor and retired porn star—received permission in 2010 from the Palm Beach County school board to hang a banner on school fences to advertise his math tutoring company, The Happy/Fun Math Tutor.

Even though Mech paid the required fee and hung banners that complied with school board policy, school officials ultimately removed them in 2013.

Why? A group of parents discovered that Mech's tutoring company had the same principal place of business as his other company, David Pounder Productions LLC, which formerly produced pornography. The parents complained to officials.

According to Mech’s complaint, the company ceased producing adult films in 2008 and was only involved in a documentary project about the impacts of performing in the adult industry and a “mainstream” book analyzing relationships.

The situation was “‘inconsistent with the educational mission’” of the school, the officials decided.

The Eleventh Circuit agreed that officials could remove the banners because they are government speech under Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc., 2015 BL 194034.

In Walker, the Supreme Court said Texas can ban  Confederate-themed specialty license plates because its plates are government speech not subject to scrutiny under the First Amendment.

“Unlike the license plates at issue in Walker, the banner advertisements here are not government IDs over which the School Board exercises absolute control over language or design,” Mech argues in his petition.

Mech warns that the Eleventh Circuit’s opinion “represents a stark departure from the narrowly-defined realm of government speech delineated in Walker.”

He urges the high court to take the case to resolve a circuit split with the Federal Circuit “on whether attaching a governmental label to retail marketing materials renders the speech governmental.”

In the Federal Circuit case, In re Tam, the Asian-American rock band, “The Slants,” sought to register the “Slants” trademark. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected the application as disparaging, under the Lanham Trademark Act of 1946.

The Federal Circuit reversed, holding that a ban on registering disparaging trademarks is a violation of free speech because when “the government registers a trademark, it regulates private speech. It does not speak for itself.”

The government has petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case, Lee v. Tam, No. 15-1293.

Will Mech’s story have a happy ending? The school board filed its brief in response July 20, so the high court will most likely schedule the case for its long conference at the end of September.

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