By Carol McCracken (Post # 761)
Yesterday the United States District Court, Bangor, ruled that Governor LePage’s order to remove the labor mural from the walls of the Maine Department of Labor late last month did not violate the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment. In his decision, Judge Woodcock reasoned that “messages from state-owned works of art are government speech and Maine political leaders…are entitled to select the views they want to express,” said a press release.
“We are disappointed the Court denied our request for a restraining order, but acknowledge that the standard for obtaining such relief is extraordinary, notes the plaintiffs’ counsel Jeffrey Neil Young of the law firm McTeague Higbee. “We appreciate but respectfully disagree with Judge Woodcock’s decision and are reviewing the options of where we go from here. We may have lost this preliminary skirmish in the court of law, but we already have won in the hearts and minds of Maine people.”
Attorney Young added, “This case transcended the court room. People from around the world responded to the Governor’s decision to remove this mural from the Maine Department of Labor’s walls. The fact is, the people of Maine do not want to be told by the government what they can, and cannot, see.”
The plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the state on April 1 and filed the TRO on April 8 to compel Governor LePage to return the mural to its proper place for public exhibit, at the Maine Department of Labor office in Augusta. The mural has been hidden in an unknown location since March 26, when the Governor ordered private workers to remove it during the weekend and put it where it could not be viewed by the public. The plaintiffs also asked the Court to order Governor LePage and the other defendants to reveal the location of the mural, and to ensure the mural is in good condition and is protected.
Judge Woodcock will be scheduling a conference with attorneys Young, Jonathan Beal and Carol Garvan and defendants’ counsel to discuss where the case should proceed following this decision.