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Maine Attorney General Announces Mural Court Decision
April 22, 2011
AUGUSTA ? Maine Attorney General William J. Schneider today announced that the United States District Court denied the motion for a temporary restraining order in which the plaintiffs attempted to require the State of Maine to put back up the mural located at the Department of Labor that was removed several weeks ago.
Judge John A. Woodcock, in a thorough and well-reasoned decision, explained that the mural represented government speech because the State commissioned, approved, paid for and owned it, and that ?the overwhelming weight of authority indicates that government speech may say what it wishes regardless of viewpoint.?
?The messages from the state-owned works of art are government speech and Maine?s political leaders, who are ultimately responsible to the electorate, are entitled to select the views they want to express,? concludes Judge Woodcock.
Attorney General William J. Schneider applauded the decision, stating: ?We are pleased with this decision. Judge Woodcock correctly found that elected officials can and should express their views. This is as it should be because the voters of Maine therefore have a better idea what their elected officials stand for. The Court agreed that it would be a dangerous precedent for a federal court to dictate how the state government should express its views.?
The Court?s decision follows oral arguments held on April 19, 2011 on the motion for a temporary restraining order filed by six plaintiffs claiming the administration violated their first amendment rights by denying them access to view the mural.
?The thoroughness of the decision should put these issues to rest and make clear to the plaintiffs that the way to express their views is through the political rather than judicial processes,? remarked Deputy Attorney General Paul Stern, who argued on behalf of the administration.
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