LePage’s Mural Drama Advances to Court Room Drama; Oral Arguments 4/19 – Bangor

One of Eleven Panels in a Mural Secretly Removed from the Departmet of Labor By the Governor Last Month

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 755)

Even if Governor Paul LePage  takes the advice given to him recently to restrain his language, the introduction of a lawsuit against him for the secret removal of the labor mural from a reception area of the Augusta Department of Labor will become a part of his legacy – no matter what else he may be remembered for during his administration.

Last month, LePage had removed a 36 ft., 11 panel, labor mural from the Labor Department because its presence there reportedly offended some business men.  On April 4th, the US Department of Labor issued a letter stating that either the mural should be rehung or the State of Maine would have to return a the artist’s commission.

Furthermore, a lawsuit has been filed on behalf of six plaintiffs against the Governor for wrongful removal of the mural. Yesterday afternoon during a conference call, plaintiffs’ attorney requested that the State permit an immediate independent inspection of the  labor mural and that the State disclose the mural’s location.  The State of Maine’s attorney, Paul Stern, opposed both requests. 

At the same time, oral arguments were scheduled for Tuesday, April 19 at 10 am at the Bangor Federal Court House on Harlow Street.   The State filed an objection saying that because the State owns the mural it has the right to choose to display or not to display the mural.  The plaintiffs have until Wednesday, April 13 to respond and a State Surreply is due on Friday, April 15th.

Plaintiffs’ attorney responded:  “The State’s position that the removal constitutes government speech is wrong.  The government speech doctrine is a narrow exception to the First Amendment and does not permit the government to remove a mural because it disagrees with the murals perceived viewpoint.”