A U.S. district court judge has rejected an Illinois sheriff's bid to shut down Craigslist's erotic services category. You can't spank the website, the judge ruled, for the actions of some naughty, naughty prostitutes.

Said Judge John Grady:

"Sheriff [Thomas] Dart may continue to use Craigslist's Web site to identify and pursue individuals who post allegedly unlawful content. But he cannot sue Craigslist for their conduct."

Since the sheriff filed his suit in March, Craigslist has renamed the section "adult services" and imposed rules requiring a working phone number and valid credit card from, err, adult service providers. This doesn't seem to have impacted business much. But that's actually a good thing for the sheriff: since hookers will continue to flock to Craigslist, which cooperates with police, Dart can continue to use the site as a choke point for large-scale prostitution busts, as he has in the past. He just can't demonize the site for his own political posturing.