A federal appeals court Thursday struck down the city of Hermosa Beach's ban on tattoo parlors, saying what we already knew: Tattoo art is a “unique and important method of expression” and therefore protected by the Constitution's right of free speech. A three-judge panel from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals deemed the city's ban “unreasonable.”

Tattoo artist Johnny Anderson, who owns a shop in Gardena and wanted to expand into Hermosa Beach, filed a civil lawsuit in 2007 against the city. Hermosa Beach argued that the ban was in place because of health and safety concerns.

“I'm thrilled and excited about the news,” Anderson said. “It forces Hermosa to allow tattoo shops to open. The court said tattooing is protected under freedom of expression.”

Anderson said that the city's health and safety concerns were unfounded and based on a “fear” of undesirables inhabiting the seaside town.

U.S. Circuit Court Judge Jay S. Bybee (yes, that Bybee, of the Bybee memo that authorized “enhanced interrogation” in the War on Terror) wrote in his ruling that tattooing is “a process like writing words down or drawing a picture except that it is performed on a person's skin.”

With reporting from City News Service

LA Weekly