Skip to comments.Federal judge says [Maine Governor] LePage’s decision to remove mural was ‘government speech’
Posted on 03/26/2012 8:36:08 AM PDT by DeaconBenjamin
Panel 8 (center) of the controversial labor mural removed by Gov. LePage shows Francis Perkins, President Franklin Roosevelt's labor secretary and an untiring labor activist. Some Republicans claimed that a face in that panel bears a striking resemblance to former Department of Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman.
BANGOR, Maine A federal judge on Friday ruled in favor of Gov. Paul LePage in a lawsuit concerning the governors controversial removal of a Department of Labor mural, saying LePages action amounted to government speech.
In a 90-page opinion, U.S. District Judge John A. Woodcock Jr. granted motions for summary judgment in favor of LePage and members of his administration. The judge also dismissed two counts of an amended complaint filed by the plaintiffs.
The decision essentially denied a trial of the lawsuit seeking to compel LePage to restore the mural to the walls of the Department of Labor building in Augusta.
The prospect of [hauling] a sitting governor into federal court to be cross-examined under oath as to why he made a political decision may momentarily cheer the partisan, Woodcock wrote. But the long-term implications of federal court intervention in state politics are sobering.
The judge said that because Maine owns the mural, it is free to do what it wants with the artwork.
The record establishes that the idea for the commissioning of the mural began with the state of Maine, that Maine established its theme, that Maine commissioned its creation, that Maine chose the artist, that Maine paid for the mural, that Maine owns the mural, that Maine displays (or not) the mural on its own property, and that Maine even has the right to destroy it, Woodcock wrote.
The judge said the state of Maine engaged in government speech when it commissioned and displayed the mural.
It follows that Gov. LePage also engaged in government speech when he removed the mural, Woodcock wrote. The governors message whether verbal or in the form of the expressive act of removal is government speech.
LePages decision to remove the mural, which contains 11 panels depicting the history of Maines labor movement, gained national attention, including a disapproving editorial in The New York Times and sendups by political comedians such as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
LePage initially stated that the mural displayed a one-sided view of Maines labor history, but said later during an interview with NBCs Brian Williams that his objection stemmed from where the money used to pay for the mural was obtained.
Regardless of Judge Woodcocks opinion, while we may not have yet prevailed in the court of law, we already have prevailed in the court of public opinion, the plaintiffs attorney, Jeffrey Neil Young, said in a statement. Mainers recognize what the court has failed to appreciate, that the removal of the mural is nothing less than government censorship of artistic speech in violation of the First Amendment.
Young added that the plaintiffs were still studying the opinion and would decide in the near future whether to appeal the ruling to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.
Weve always believed that this was a frivolous, politically motivated lawsuit, said LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett. She said it would be stunning if government officials were barred from making decisions about what artwork can hang in public buildings.
Bennett declined Friday to disclose the whereabouts of the mural, saying only that it is in storage and in a safe place.
That place, however, is not the Maine State Museum, deputy director Sheila McDonald said Friday.
It is not here, she said. We dont have it at the museum. I actually dont know where it is, but its my understanding that its in a safe place.
Bennett said Friday that no plans have been made with regard to displaying the piece in the near future.
The [court] decision just came down today and well be revisiting those questions in the coming days, after the governor returns from his vacation in Jamaica, she said.
Brooksville artist Robert Shetterly, one of three Maine artists named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, expressed disappointment at Woodcocks ruling.
I have found Judge Woodcock to be an astute and thoughtful person, Shetterly said Friday in a telephone interview. However, I think hes wrong about this being a matter of government speech. His decision is basically timid. I think its a sad decision.
Shetterly, who travels to classrooms throughout Maine and across the country to speak about his Americans Who Tell The Truth series of portraits, said the ruling wasnt a total surprise to him since Woodcock earlier had expressed reluctance to intervene in the matter. Shetterly said Woodcock had earlier suggested the best remedy was the ballot instead of a court ruling.
The whole doctrine of government speech is a fallacious one, he said. This is just honest history, pure and simple. No one can argue with the depiction of Maines labor history thats in the mural.
Maine Attorney General William J. Schneider applauded Woodcocks decision.
One of the cornerstones of American democracy is free expression by individuals and the government, Schneider said in a statement. As citizens, we want our government officials to speak and express their views. Any effort by a small group to attempt to control governments speech by bringing elected officials to trial should be viewed as a threat to our democratic principles. I am pleased that the court agreed that just as individuals are free to speak, so too is the government.
Jason Savage, executive director of the West Enfield-based group Maine People Before Politics, also issued a statement supporting the ruling.
Hopefully this closes yet another chapter in the history of those who would rather play politics than restore Maines promise, said Savage. From the beginning, Maine people could see that this lawsuit was not about right and wrong, it was about people who disagreed with the governor making a political statement.
POP! POP! POW!
(Liberal LePage hating heads explode!)
Anybody remember Woodcock from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?
LePage for President !
Yep I LIKE this guy!
Shetterly, who travels to classrooms throughout Maine and across the country to speak about his Americans Who Tell The Truth
I checked that out awhile ago.
A LOT of leftist claptrap, drivel, and lies.
This mural looks more like the history of North Korea. Agitprop masquerading as art. Of course; If Obama keeps ‘progressing’ us, we may just have to put it back up to brighten up the place.
More at this link...
For those who aren’t familiar with the ‘gov’
Mainers,check my tag;
Next up for that garbage is a big bonfire.
Mainers recognize what the court has failed to appreciate, that the removal of the mural is nothing less than government censorship of artistic speech in violation of the First Amendment.
Amazing quotes from the losing side.