Pro Bono Kirkpatrick Prevails For Gallery Owner In Pro Bono First Amendment Case

Thursday, December 1, 2005 - 01:00

Lawyers from Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham LLP (K&LNG) successfully preserved the First Amendment rights of a Pilot Point, Texas art dealer by obtaining pro bono a permanent injunction that prevents local officials from interfering with Dwight Wesley Miller's right to display a mural on the exterior wall of his gallery.

In 2003, Mr. Miller commissioned a local artist to paint a mural depicting Eve, the apple from the Garden of Eden, and the pointing arm of God taken from Michelangelo's creation scene in the Sistine Chapel in Rome. The figure of Eve was stylized, and Eve was nude (although shadows concealed her below the waist). The town's police department twice threatened to charge Mr. Miller with violating a Texas statute prohibiting the display of obscene material to children if he did not cover the nudity in the mural.

K&LNG lawyers brought a federal lawsuit against the town and its police chief and argued that the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that depictions of simple nudity are not obscene and are, in fact, protected by the First Amendment. After K&LNG filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, the town agreed to settle the case and, as part of the settlement, the court entered a permanent injunction barring the town from charging Mr. Miller with any offense.

Frederick Linton Medlin, who led the K&LNG team, said: "This case raised important questions about Mr. Miller's right to display constitutionally protected art without fear of reprisal and unwarranted criminal prosecution. We are proud to have played a role in this effort to successfully preserve his rights."

Carleton O. Strouss, chair of K&LNG's pro bono committee, said: "At its core, pro bono work is about giving voices to those who may otherwise be unable to make themselves heard. A victory like the one secured for Mr. Miller underscores the meaning that pro bono work can have and the difference successful outcomes can make."

To learn more about K&LNG's recent pro bono work, see the latest issue of the firm's Pro Bono Report: