May 22, 2018
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Notice of appeal in LePage’s removal of labor mural filed in Boston court

Courtesy of Judy Taylor Fine Art
Courtesy of Judy Taylor Fine Art
A panel from the mural Gov. Paul LePage ordered removed from the Department of Labor lobby.
By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

PORTLAND, Maine — The legal battle over the removal of a mural from the Maine Department of Labor has moved to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The notice of appeal was filed in Boston on April 18 and docketed two days later, according to a press release issued Tuesday. The actual appeal is not due to be filed for several months.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys, Jeffrey Neil Young and Jonathan Beal of Portland, said U.S. District Judge John Woodcock’s decision would be appealed when it was issued on March 23.

Woodcock found that Gov. Paul LePage’s removal of the mural amounted to “government speech,” according to a previously published report. The judge said that because Maine owns the mural, it is free to do what it wants with the artwork.

The mural features women shipbuilders during World War II, the 1986 International Paper strike in Jay, child laborers and part-time Maine resident Frances Perkins, who as President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s labor secretary was integral to the creation of a minimum wage, Social Security and other aspects of Roosevelt’s New Deal.

LePage ordered the mural removed in March 2011 because he said it presented a one-sided view of history and wasn’t in keeping with his pro-business agenda. The lawsuit was filed April 1, 2011, i n U.S. District Court in Bangor.

“We maintain that this was a frivolous, politically motivated lawsuit and this appeal does not change that. This is another way for the opposition to drag out the process, but when all is said and done, we believe that we will prevail in this case. It would be stunning if government officials were barred from making decisions about what artwork can hang in public buildings,” said Adrienne Bennett, spokeswoman for LePage.

The plaintiffs are Don Berry of Sumner, president of the Maine AFL-CIO; John Newton, an industrial hygienist of Portland; and three Maine artists: Robert Shetterly of Brooksville, Natasha Mayers of Whitefield and Joan Braun of Weld.

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