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JUDGE LEANS TOWARD NOD FOR PLAYBOY

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A judge said he will probably rule in favor of a firefighter who has been prohibited from reading Playboy magazine in his firehouse.

U.S. District Judge Steven Wilson said Tuesday that Los Angeles County's ban on sexually explicit magazines in fire stations appears vague and overbroad. He said he would study the legal issues and rule later this week.Capt. Steven W. Johnson sued in December to overturn the county's 2-year-old magazine ban, which was part of a sexual harassment doctrine implemented to comply with state and federal law. The ban applies to dormitories, restrooms and lockers.

"This is not a case of pinups or posters on the wall," said Paul Hoffman, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who represents Johnson. "A firefighter has a right to read."

Johnson, 49, works 24-hour shifts at a remote, all-male station in the Mojave Desert near Edwards Air Force Base.

"It's not a 9-to-5 job. It's our home away from home," Johnson testified.

Patricia Kaye Vaughan, a county Fire Department employee who helped draft the policy, testified that the county feared the magazines would create a hostile atmosphere in which women would be seen as sex objects.

She said the ban was limited to material "designed to elicit sexual arousal of the viewer."

Hoffman asked Vaughan to look at copies of Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and Sports Illustrated that include nudity, and she agreed that they would be banned under the county's policy.

"I don't believe he would be allowed to bring this into the fire station," Vaughan said as she thumbed through a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.