Utah responds to ‘Deadpool’ lawsuit claiming authority to protect ‘health, welfare and morals’

Posted at 8:05 AM, May 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-20 00:38:46-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- In a response to a lawsuit filed by a movie theater facing revocation of its liquor license for showing "Deadpool," the state of Utah declares it has "the authority to protect public health, welfare and morals of the community."

In a court filing obtained by FOX 13 on Wednesday night, the Utah Attorney General's office denies much of the allegations made in the lawsuit filed by Brewvies, but provided some answers when it comes to the state law that prohibits liquor licensees from showing films that have nudity or feature certain sex acts.

"The regulation is not designed to suppress expression, but rather at combating the negative secondary effects caused by serving alcohol while viewing adult entertainment," assistant Utah Attorney General David Wolf wrote.

Brewvies sued the state over the law after it was threatened by Utah's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control with revocation of its liquor license for showing "Deadpool." The movie theater has previously been fined under the same statute for showing "The Hangover, Part II" and claims it was threatened by the DABC over "Ted 2" and "Magic Mike XXL."

The theater has accused the state of interfering with its First Amendment right to free expression. In the response, the Utah Attorney General's Office said its law does not violate the First Amendment as Brewvies claims, and suggested that any other effect of it is limited to the lone theater that serves liquor.

"The statute regulates conduct, and any incidental impact on the expressive element of films depicting nudity or other prohibited conduct is de minimis," Wolf wrote.

"De minimis" is a legal term meaning something is too small to take into consideration.

While the case winds its way through federal court, the DABC has agreed to take no enforcement action against Brewvies. Recently, the theater began showing "Deadpool" again while raising money for its litigation.

The Utah Attorney General's Office on Thursday asked a federal judge for a three day bench trial in January 2017, declaring that the likelihood of a settlement was "fair." Brewvies is expected to ask the judge for summary judgment on the case.

A federal judge could issue a ruling on that by the end of the year.

Read the lawsuit response here: