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First Amendment Attorney Randall Tigue Moves to Virginia

Virginia- Bar owners enticing customers with skin. Small-town strippers. Dirty-magazine merchants. Porn kings. Randall Tigue has always been on their side.

As Minnesota’s go-to adult entertainment lawyer for the past three decades, Tigue has played a starring role advocating for free speech in fights over community morals.

But Friday, Tigue drove to the East Coast to take his legal prowess elsewhere. He’s taking a job as an in-house lawyer for a Virginia company that operates a chain of adult night clubs around the country.

He has left behind scorn and admiration.

“If that means there’s going to be less promotion of pornography … that’s in Minnesota’s best interest,” said Tom Prichard, president of the Minnesota Family Council.

“He is the premier champion of the First Amendment in Minnesota, no doubt about it,” said Minneapolis defense attorney Peter Wold. “He’s legendary for that work, and it’s important to have somebody in every region to be able to carry on that battle. … He’ll be missed.”

Through his years in Minnesota, Tigue, 58, has always emphasized what he does as a constitutional issue.

“I think the First Amendment is the most important part of the Constitution,” Tigue said. “People who engage in noncontroversial and popular speech don’t have their First Amendment rights violated.”

A University of Minnesota Law School graduate, Tigue started his career at the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union. He got into representing the adult entertainment industry in the early 1970s, after the late Minnesota pornography king Ferris Alexander saw him counsel a fellow prison inmate.

Tigue said Alexander, imprisoned at the time for transporting obscene materials across state borders, was impressed with his Spanish and started hiring him when he got out.

Tigue hasn’t looked back since. He has represented a variety of cases in his 33 years: DWI suspects, gun rights and immigration cases. But he’s known most for his work defending the lewd.

With his disheveled hair, rumpled suits and feisty tone, Tigue forged into towns all over the state, championing the rights of strippers and pornography peddlers. Sometimes he won and sometimes he lost.

A victory for him: Getting nude dancers acquitted in jury trials after arguing they were performing artists.

“People are dancing fully nude in Benton County and Cannon Falls right now as a result of that,” Tigue said.

A loss: A Wisconsin Appeals Court rejecting the claim that nude dancing in bars was constitutional.

“I kind of liken my career to the myth of Sisyphus,” Tigue said. “For every one of these victories, I can tell you how the boulder has rolled back down the hill again.”

Tigue has faced his own legal troubles. He was under indictment for 19 months on charges that he helped Alexander hide his earnings from the Internal Revenue Service. Tigue was acquitted in 1990, but went bankrupt defending himself.

Tigue has gotten plenty of hate mail throughout his years, including one missive he said was written like a court transcript in which Satan was the prosecutor, Tigue was defending himself and God was the judge. The sentence: eternal damnation.

“I’m very frequently reminded of the fate of my immortal soul,” Tigue said.

He insists he doesn’t get a lot of flak in his personal life, though. “But then I don’t associate with that many fundamentalist Christians,” he said.

He is married with two adult children and one grandchild. He sits on the board of Atheists for Human Rights, a group based in Minneapolis. He goes to strip clubs “on occasion,” he said.

“I think the extent to which people really don’t like sexually explicit entertainment is gravely exaggerated,” Tigue said.

Typically, it’s small groups of people who organize and cause a ruckus, he said. And it’s easy for elected officials to take up their cause.

People on both sides agree the battles in Minnesota aren’t likely to subside without Tigue in Minnesota: He’ll finish some cases here, and other lawyers will step in. But it won’t be the same, those on both sides of the controversy agree.

“There’s probably nobody else in the country that knows more about the First Amendment rights of adult entertainment businesses,” said Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, who called Tigue a brilliant attorney. “There’s only gonna be one Randy Tigue.”


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