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First Circuit: LePage Allowed to Remove Maine Labor Mural

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By Robyn Hagan Cain on November 29, 2012 3:02 PM

Former Maine Governor John Baldacci commissioned a mural for the waiting area of the Maine Department of Labor in 2007. The mural — meant to convey the value of the labor force and the history of Maine labor — including depictions of a shoe-worker strike, child laborers and Rosie the Riveter.

In 2011, current Maine Governor Paul LePage created a kerfuffle when he ordered the 11-panel, 7-foot-tall mural removed because he considered it biased in favor of organized labor over business interests. The governor’s mural shuffling led to a lawsuit.

The issue: Whether Gov. LePage violated the First Amendment by removing the Maine labor mural from the waiting room. (Yes, these are the great legal questions of our time.)

The district court, applying Pleasant Grove City, Utah v. Summum, said that LePage was within his rights to remove the mural. After hearing arguments in the case earlier this month, the First Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.

According to the First Circuit Court of Appeals, "Whatever the wisdom of the decision to remove the mural from that location, the accountability for that decision lies in the political process. The district court correctly entered judgment for defendants on plaintiffs' claims of a First Amendment violation."

A few issues, however, remain unresolved in the matter.

First, the mural supporters have not indicated if they will ask for en banc or Supreme Court review, The Associated Press reports. Second, a replica of the mural has been on display in the state, but Gov. LePage is keeping quiet about the original's location.

Generally, we wouldn't care about the whereabouts of a displaced mural, but the mystery makes it more compelling. Which would be the better course of action here? A habeas ars petition -- we checked the Latin -- or a FOIA request?

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