The long legal battle between the town of Marshall, North Carolina, and the woman it banned from its dance hall for overly provocative dancing, has finally ended. The town agreed to pay Rebecca Willis $275,000 to settle the case.
This brings to an end a saga that began in 2001, when Willis — then 56 — was banned from the Marshall Depot for provocative clothing and dancing that allegedly included "gyrating" and simulated intercourse. She sued. The litigation ultimately lasted nearly eight years and involved two separate trips to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which reinstated her case both times, allowing an equal-protection claim to go forward. After Willis's lawsuit was reinstated the second time, earlier this year, the town finally seems to have thrown in the towel.
It did not, of course, admit any wrongdoing, and an attorney said that its insurer had been pushing for the settlement. Under the deal, Willis remains excluded from the Depot, which she says is just fine with her. ($275,000 will buy a whole lot of jiggy someplace else, I'm sure.) "They said they'd burn the place down before they let her come back," said Willis's attorney, "so we decided to see if they'd put a monetary price on the right." They did.