UPDATE: Victory! In July 2019, a federal judge 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.
Representing a New Orleans resident who had been ordered to remove a mural from his property or face possible jail time, the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana filed a First Amendment lawsuit arguing that the city’s murals-permit scheme violates the U.S. Constitution.
The mural depicted President Trump’s misogynistic comments recorded during a 2005 “Access Hollywood” segment, using images in place of certain words.
New Orleans requires murals to be subject to “advance review and approval” by city officials, but city standards for such approval do not exist. As a result, property owners like the plaintiff, Neal Morris, have to obtain the government’s permission to paint murals on their properties, but they have no guidance as to which murals are permissible and which are not.
The lawsuit asserts that the city’s permit requirements constitute unconstitutional restrictions on freedom of speech and that the permit approval process is opaque, selectively enforced, and lacking any clear standards.
The lawsuit asks the court to declare the mural-permit scheme unconstitutional and block the city from enforcing it.