Is Harris County’s proposed prostitution ban constitutional? Judge set to hear arguments Thursday

May 16, 2019 GMT

A controversial lawsuit seeking to ban street prostitution on a notorious strip of Bissonnet in southwest Houston will come before a state judge Thursday as lawyers address whether the proposed injunction violates the constitutional rights of the accused prostitutes, pimps and johns it seeks to prohibit from the zone.

The Houston Chronicle’s three-part series this month, The Track, explored the origins of the “nuisance” lawsuit and the range of reactions to the rare legal approach to addressing the harms caused by prostitution.

On HoustonChronicle.com: The Track: Street prostitution permeates daily life on Houston’s outskirts


Lawyers donating their services to defend some of the suspected prostitutes have argued that the injunction - akin to a gang injunction - is too broad and encroaches on their clients’ right to beckon people, stand on corners, wait at bus stops or talk on a cell phone in the area. The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas submitted a similar argument in a friend-of-the-court brief.

On HoustonChronicle.com: The Track: Struggling to escape ‘the game’ on Bissonnet

But a lawyer for Harris County has argued the injunction is a fair and appropriate remedy to the incessant blight caused by prostitution. Neighborhood groups support the ban, saying that blatant hustling and pick-ups on the Bissonnet Track threaten people’s safety and diminish the quality of life in Westwood and Forum Park.

On HoustonChronicle.com: The Track: Cracking Down

The state and Harris County brought the civil nuisance suit in August as a “tool of last resort” to address a growing problem, according to Celena Vinson, chief architect of the injunction for the county attorney’s office. Houston police have arrested nearly 1,500 people for engaging in prostitution in the area in the past five years, some multiple times.