Lawsuit filed against Gov. LePage to return Labor Mural to Department of Labor lobby

By Ramona du Houx - April 1st, 2011 · 

A panel of Judy Taylor's mural that was secretly taken down by Gov. LePage.
Today, on behalf of six individuals in Maine, attorney Jeffrey Neil Young and Jonathan Beal filed suit today against Gov. Paul LePage and two other Maine officials to compel them to disclose the location of the mural that was removed from the Maine Department of Labor’s lobby over the weekend of March 26, 2011; to receive assurance that the mural is adequately preserved and protected, and ultimately to restore the mural to its proper location, the lobby of the Department of Labor in Augusta.

According to Attorney Jeff Young, partner in the Topsham firm McTeague Higbee filing the lawsuit, “The removal of the mural is clearly in violation of the First Amendment, protecting Freedom of Speech; the Maine government removed the mural because it didn’t agree with the message in the mural. The Mural portrays important moments in Maine’s labor history, and Plaintiffs and the People of Maine are being denied the opportunity to learn about that history due to the mural’s removal from the lobby of the Maine Department of Labor.”

The Complaint alleges that government officials, Paul LePage in his capacity as Governor; Joseph Phillips in his capacity as Director of the Maine State Museum; and Laura Boyette in her capacity as acting commissioner of the Maine Department of Labor, have acted in violation of the First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendments and have failed in their fiduciary duties.

The Plaintiffs are Don Berry, head of the Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 567; John Newton, an industrial hygienist with the United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and three Maine artists: Robert Shetterly, Natasha Mayers, and Joan Braun. The sixth plaintiff is attorney Jonathan Beal, who requested a public hearing prior to the removal of the mural.

Young noted that the mural is historical material as defined by the same statute that created the Maine State Museum, “As director of the Maine State Museum, Joseph Phillips has a fiduciary duty to present, exhibit, preserve and protect historical artworks, including the mural. He has breached his duties by allowing the mural to be removed unsupervised and stored in a potentially damaging manner.”

About McTeague Higbee: McTeague Higbee, founded in 1976, is a plaintiffs-only firm dedicated to giving voice to people who often don’t have one. With experience in both state and federal courts including national litigation, McTeague Higbee has particular prominence in asbestos litigation, workplace discrimination, workers’ compensation, construction accidents, and personal injury.

McTeague Higbee and Jeffrey Neil Young, the lead counsel in this case, have brought a number of successful class, collective, and mass actions on behalf of workers for violation of the ADEA (partnering with Goldstein Demchak in a suit against IBM), the WARN Act, ERISA, and wage and hour laws, as well as individual civil rights actions. For more information about McTeague Higbee, visit www.mcteaguehigbee.com.