May 20, 2018
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Judge schedules next step in ongoing labor mural legal case

BDN staff and wire reports

BANGOR, Maine — Federal Judge Woodcock convened a conference call Wednesday with both parties in the continuing legal case regarding the disposition of the History of Maine Labor mural.

Gov. Paul LePage caused an uproar in March by ordering the removal of the 11-panel mural depicting scenes from Maine’s labor history from a state building.

The mural was installed in 2008 when John Baldacci was governor. LePage, who became governor in January, said it’s biased in favor of organized labor at the expense of business interests.

Judge Woodcock allowed the plaintiffs who sued LePage over the move until May 24 to submit a proposed list of facts and statements for the record. The State will have until June 2 to respond and then the plaintiffs’ lawyers will have another week to reply. The State must then file an answer by mid-June.

The six plaintiffs — three artists, an attorney and two people who have said they regularly visit the Department of Labor building — claimed the administration violated their First Amendment rights by denying them access to the mural. They sued Gov. Paul LePage on April 1 and filed a motion for a temporary restraining order seven days later to force LePage to return the artwork depicting the history of Maine’s labor movement. Judge Woodcock denied the motion for a restraining order.

Plaintiff attorney Jeff Young noted, “The case is ongoing, not lost. To date, all Judge Woodcock did was deny our injunction seeking a Temporary Restraining Order. The TRO could have put a quick end to this case but it requires a very high level of certainty that Plaintiffs will prevail. We remain confident that we ultimately will prevail.  Of course, the matter could be resolved quickly if the Governor simply restored the mural to the Department of Labor.”

The 11-panel mural was created by Tremont artist Judy Taylor — who is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

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