GREENWOOD LAKE, N.Y., Feb. 17, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Melanie Gold, a local artist and resident of Greenwood Lake, New York, has filed a lawsuit against the Village after the village board issued a moratorium on all publicly displayed art (the "Art Ban").
The lawsuit alleges that the Art Ban was introduced by the local government in an effort to thwart a community project on private property that can be viewed from a village road that Ms. Gold has underway. The suit asserts that the Art Ban is in direct violation of the First Amendment right to freedom of expression.
The Complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeks injunctive relief to permanently enjoin the Village from enforcing its Art Ban, and asks the Court to declare the Art Ban in violation of free speech protections under the U.S. and New York State Constitutions.
Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P., one of the nation's leading trial law firms, is representing Ms. Gold in the matter on a pro bono basis. The case came to the firm's attention through Volunteer Lawyers For The Arts.
"This moratorium is a blatant violation of the First Amendment," said David Leichtman, Partner in the New York office of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. "It is astonishing that in 2011 a local government believes it has the authority to prohibit citizens from exercising their right to communicate with each other. The law is very clear that this is not a lawful exercise of police power."
In June 2010, Ms. Gold received a grant from the Orange County Tourism Board to display art on the side of a private building in the community. This project is now known as the "Greenwood Lake Greetings" exhibit of the Greenwood Lake Mural Project. According to the suit, the Mayor and members of the Village board implemented the Art Ban in order to try to stop the project by prohibiting the creation and display of all public art until May 1, 2011, the same date that Ms. Gold's grant would expire. Despite the ban, Ms. Gold went forward with the project by hanging three panels on the building, but the Village has set a deadline of February 22nd for her to remove the works.
"I was completely blindsided by the actions taken by the mayor and the Village board," said Ms. Gold. "I intended this project to be a collaborative effort by the community that would promote cohesiveness and beautify one of the entrances to the village. I had received nothing but positive reactions from the other residents, many of whom participated in the plans for the exhibit."
Ms. Gold continued, "Why should a local government have a right to decide what is art, and what isn't?"
"These actions are not only wrong, but they are a violation of Ms. Gold's Constitutional right as an American," said Avani Bhatt, Associate at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi. "We made a number of efforts to correct this injustice without litigation but the Village left us no choice but to seek relief from the court to uphold the First Amendment rights of our client."
About Greenwood Lake Greetings
The "Greenwood Lake Greetings" display, created by the Greenwood Lake Mural Project Team and curated by teacher and theater professional Melanie Gold, is an outdoor art exhibit in the Village of Greenwood Lake featuring paintings by local artists Louis Delsarte and Gad Nusinov and a graphically designed dedication panel by Ms. Gold. The Project is located at 673 Jersey Avenue in the Village.
The installation features digitally printed, oversized reproductions (approximately six feet tall by six feet wide) of Delsarte's "Greenwood Lake" and Nusinov's "Fall" as well as the dedication panel by Ms. Gold.
This project was conceived, directed and produced by area resident Melanie Gold and is intended to provide "a warm and inviting welcome to those entering Greenwood Lake from New Jersey."
This project is made possible, in part, with funds from Orange County Tourism, the County of Orange, and contributions from local businesses and supporters.
About Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P.
Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. (www.rkmc.com) is one of the top trial firms in the country. The firm's clients include numerous Fortune 500 corporations, emerging markets companies, entrepreneurs, and individuals as both plaintiffs and defendants. Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. is frequently engaged in high-stakes, complex litigation with significant bottom-line implications for their clients, and the business lawyers handle complex transactions in a variety of market segments. The firm has more than 250 lawyers located in Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York and Naples (FL).
Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. has been honored as a recipient of The National Law Journal's 2011 Pro Bono Award and was selected as a Pro Bono Firm of 2010 by Law360. The American Lawyer ranked the firm no. 6 in the country in the 2009 Pro Bono Survey, and twice named the firm to the A-List (2007 and 2004). The firm has regularly received a top ranking for litigation from Chambers USA and was chosen as a "Go-To Law Firm" by Corporate Counsel.
About Volunteer Lawyers For The Arts, Inc.
Since 1969, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (vlany.org) has been the leading provider of educational and legal services, advocacy and mediation to the arts community. As the first arts-related legal aid organization, VLA is the model for similar organizations around the world.
VLA is supported in part with public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and through generous gifts from law firms, corporations, foundations and individuals.
SOURCE Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P.