Everett bikini baristas file petition to U.S. Supreme Court

It’s unlikely the highest court will hear the case, a lawyer for the baristas said.

EVERETT — A decade-long legal battle between bikini baristas and the city of Everett could soon reach the U.S. Supreme Court — or not.

On Monday, the coffee stand workers filed to have their case heard by the nation’s highest court, but it’s unlikely the justices will take the case, said Derek Newman, a lawyer for the workers.

“The likelihood of the Court accepting this case — just like any other non-Donald Trump case — is extremely low,” he said in an email.

In an average year, the high court hears about 80 cases out of perhaps 10,000 petitions, he said.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs wrote in their petition: “These baristas express themselves by wearing revealing outfits that intentionally diverge from societal workplace-attire norms. Through their mode of dress, the baristas communicate messages including female empowerment, freedom of expression, and body confidence.”

Now the city has 30 days to respond, said Ramsey Ramerman, an assistant attorney for the city.

On Monday afternoon, he was still reading the 30-page document and was not sure how the city would move forward. He expects the Supreme Court to make a decision in the next month or two.

It has been a long road for the baristas.

In 2009, the Everett Police Department began receiving complaints about the drive-thru coffee stands.

The department investigated and found cases of prostitution and indecent exposure. Officers began issuing citations, but found the method ineffective. The department worked with the city to respond with legislation.

The city created a Dress Code Ordinance that said quick service workers must wear at least a tanktop and shorts.

The baristas sued the city, arguing their outfits were a way to express themselves and that the code violated their First Amendment rights.

In 2017, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction, banning Everett from enforcing the dress code. That’s still in place.

About seven months ago, the federal Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit sided with the city to implement the dress code.

If the Supreme Court petition is denied, the case would go back to the appeals court to issue the mandate. At that point the preliminary injunction would be lifted and the city could enforce the dress code, Ramerman said.

The plaintiffs are associated with Hillbilly Hotties, a coffee stand with locations in Everett. They include owner Jovanna Edge, and five others who have been employees: Natalie Bjerke, Matteson Hernandez, Leah Humphrey, Amelia Powell and Liberty Ziska.

In written declarations, the baristas asserted their lack of clothing actually represented speech, as message of body positivity, women’s empowerment and freedom, according to the petition sent to the Supreme Court.

“Some countries make you wear lots of clothing because of their religious beliefs,” Hernandez wrote. “But America is different because you can wear what you want to wear. I wear what I’m comfortable with and others can wear what they are comfortable with. Wearing a bikini sends this message to others.”

“I look at empowerment as living in a country where I’m free to do these things,” Powell wrote, “and because it’s my constitutional right to be able to do these things.”

“We are here saying we watched our moms and grandmas going through hell and we don’t have to,” Ziska wrote. “Millions of women fought for our rights and right to vote and it’s my right to wear what I want. It’s my right as a person.”

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; sdavey@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @stephrdavey.

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