It took 10 years and nearly $500,000 in attorney fees and court costs for the City of Santa Ana to finally settle the misguided legal action that it never should have started. But better late than never.
The settlement was reasonable for both sides. The city will allow the Mitchell Brothers Theater to continue showing X-rated movies and will pay its owners $200,000 in exchange for the theater's agreement to remove the marquee it uses to advertise the films.
Some people understandably might consider the outcome a victory for the Mitchell brothers. They did prevail. But the big winner was the public. And the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech.
In the city's 10 years of legal pursuit against the movie house, the courts consistently refused to shut the theater down and in that decade only a few of the many hundreds of films shown were declared to be obscene.
The costly lesson for Santa Ana, and any other community that might entertain similar thoughts of censorship, is that government has no business trying to restrict what adults can see or read. Each individual, not some city council or judge, should make that decision.