Massage parlors sue over limits in Howard Co.

June 10, 1998|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

Two Howard County massage parlors have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that a county law designed to crack down on massage parlors is unconstitutional and will drive them out of business.

The suit is the first legal challenge to the law enacted in 1997 to halt illegal sex activity in the 13 parlors in the county. The outcome of the case could affect a similar law in Anne Arundel.

If the law is declared unconstitutional, then "the statute is unenforceable," said F. Todd Taylor, a senior assistant Howard County solicitor.

Rainbow Spa Inc. in Jessup and Lily Inc. in Laurel filed the lawsuit Monday in federal District Court in Baltimore. The suit alleges, among other things, that the law deprives them of the right to practice business and violates constitutional protections from illegal government searches.

At the heart of the suit is a Howard County law that makes it illegal to massage a member of the opposite sex unless the masseuse has received at least 500 hours of training from an approved school and national certification. Medical professionals such as chiropractors are exempt from the law.

At a hearing Monday in federal court, attorneys for the parlors lost a bid to prohibit the county from enforcing the law while the suit is pending.

Taylor said the county law is constitutional.

"This guy decided to file a lawsuit rather than have [employees] get the required certification," Taylor said.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs could not be reached. The lawsuit names as defendants Howard County, County Executive Charles Ecker, the five County Council members and Howard police Chief G. Wayne Livesay.

The law "would terminate my livelihood and that of my five employees," Sam Sun Shin, owner of Rainbow Spa Inc., wrote in a sworn affidavit.

Pub Date: 6/10/98

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