Injunction seeks First Amendment protection for octopus painting

The hearing for the injunction will be at 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 18.

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WALLA WALLA - The fight over the giant purple octopus has taken an official legal stand on freedom of speech.

On Friday, legal staff representing Inland Octopus owner Bob Catsiff filed an injunction in Walla Walla County Superior Court to keep the city from painting over the octopus and sending the bill to Catsiff, along with other fines.

The toy store owner faces a $100-per-day fine for his roughly 550-square-foot purple octopus painted on the front facade of his Main Street business.

In addition, Catsiff faces a hearing before a city of Walla Walla hearing examiner that could end up with city crews removing the mural at Catsiff's expense.

In the motion for an injunction, attorney Michael E. de Grasse wrote that his client's giant mural was an "artistic representation" and protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

De Grasse said, "Neither my client nor I are interested in arguing this case in the press. We have started civil litigation and ... I will advocate Mr. Catsiff's position in the courtroom."

Catsiff alerted the Union-Bulletin on Friday that a legal action had been filed.

The hearing for the injunction will be 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 18, the same day the city hearing examiner will hear the case.

Legal actions against municipalities and other government agencies usually occur after all civil hearings and appeals have been exhausted.

De Grasse explained that Catsiff will not have to wait until then because this issue deals with First Amendment rights as protected by the U.S. Constitution.

The motion filed Friday also stated Catsiff was not interested in an award of monetary damages against the city, but if he wins his case, he would seek reimbursement of legal fees.

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