LePage Wins Lawsuit on Removal of Labor Mural at MDOL Augusta; Judge Denies Plaintiffs’ Trial

Frances Perkins, First Female Secretary of Labor under President Franklin D. Roosevelt - Panel 8 of the Labor Mural

By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,006)

What has been a long and nationally recognized struggle between many Maine artists and Governor Paul LePage came to an end hours ago when John A. Woodcock, Jr., Chief United States District Judge announced his decision in the lawsuit. In a 91 page document, Judge Woodcock denied a trial in the case which sought to resore the labor history mural to the walls of the Maine Department of Labor, according to a press release from the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

Just a year ago, Governor LePage ordered the mural removed from public view, because it was perceived as being pro-labor. Reportedly an anonymous business person had complained that the mural was “propaganda to further the agenda of the Union movement.” The plaintiffs filed suit against the State last April to compel LePage to return the mural, reveal its location and ensure it is in good condition and protected. On April 22, 2011, the federal court denied Plaintiffs’ request for an injunction to compel the State to restore the mural and disclose its whereabouts. Plaintiffs have mainained that reasonable viewers could perceive the mural as “speech” – protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution from such censorship.

However, the Judge in his ruling stated that the mural, painted by Judy Taylor, was really government speech and not protected by the First Amendment. An observer would assume the mural was paid by the State and thus represented its view and not that of the artist Taylor. So her first amendment rights were not denied.

The plaintiffs’ attorney will decide in the near future whether to appeal the ruling to the First Circuit.