Federal Judge Strikes Down New Orleans Mural Requirements

Editor’s note:  This post was originally published July 9th on the ACLU of Louisiana website. It has been republished with permission from ACLU of Louisiana.

NEW ORLEANS– A federal judge today struck down New Orleans’ mural permitting requirements, ruling that requiring property owners to submit proposed murals for “advance review and approval” is a violation of their First Amendment rights.

The ruling is in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana on behalf of New Orleans resident Neal Morris, who was ordered to remove a mural (which depicted misogynistic comments by President Donald Trump) or he would face jail time.

“Forcing artists to get permission from the government, pay exorbitant fees, and navigate an obscure bureaucratic process before they can express themselves on their own property is a totally unwarranted trampling of their First Amendment rights,” said Alanah Odoms Hebert, ACLU of Louisiana executive director. “This ruling affirms that murals are a form of constitutionally-protected free expression – even when they depict the offensive, misogynistic statements of our President.”

The New Orleans Department of Safety and Permits sent Morris a letter ordering him to remove the mural or face punishment, including “a maximum fine or jail time.”

“Artists who want to create art on their own property shouldn’t have to wait around while bureaucrats decide whether the content meets some arbitrary standard,” said Morris. “Yes, occasionally we will be confronted with art we find objectionable, but those with delicate sensibilities still have the option of looking away.”

The City Code required that all proposed murals were subject to City review for content before a permit would be issued. In addition, a mural in a historic district or on a historically designated structure required approval of the Historic District Landmarks Commission.

Today’s ruling prohibits the city from enforcing these restrictions.

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