Octopus case to Supreme Court

As expected, the state Court of Appeals denied a request for reconsideration of its ruling against a local toy store owner.


WALLA WALLA -- The Court of Appeals has decided not to change its mind regarding its ruling last month against the purple octopus.

Monday, a three-judge panel of the Spokane-based court denied Inland Octopus owner Bob Catsiff's motion for reconsideration, which was filed April 30.

Catsiff's attorney Michael de Grasse told the Union-Bulletin this morning the ruling was not unexpected because such motions are rarely granted.

So now, it's on to the state Supreme Court, de Grasse said, as Catsiff continues his legal battle to try to keep the giant mural above his toy store at 7 E. Main St.

Denial of the reconsideration motion by the appeals-court panel affirms its April 12 opinion rejecting Catsiff's contention that his constitutional free-speech rights are being restricted by the city of Walla Walla's sign code, which he also says is overbroad and vague.

The judges' decision allows the city to enforce its sign regulations, which prohibit the octopus mural because it's too large. Catsiff has agreed the painting is a wall sign by the city's definition.

The panel ruled the city's size and placement restrictions are reasonable and based on legitimate government interests.

The ruling is an affirmation of one last year by Walla Walla County Superior Court Judge Donald W. Schacht, who rejected Catsiff's claims in a lawsuit he brought against the city.

Catsiff now -- within 30 days -- will ask the state Supreme Court to review the appeals-court panel's ruling on the case. It could take several months for the high court to decide whether to grant or deny review, then months more for a final decision if such review is granted.

If he ultimately loses, he then could petition the U.S. Supreme Court to review his case.

"We don't expect to lose at the (state) Supreme Court level," de Grasse said this morning. "But if we lose, we'll decide what to do after that."

Catsiff commissioned the octopus painting Labor Day weekend 2010. He didn't have a permit and the city ultimately ordered him to remove the mural or otherwise bring it into compliance with the sign code.

Until Catsiff's appeals are exhausted, the city is allowing Catsiff to keep the mural above the entrance to his store in the leased building. However, $100-a-day fines against him that began Oct. 14, 2010, have continued accruing and he will have to pay if he ultimately loses.

Catsiff currently owes about $58,000.

City Attorney Tim Donaldson said today the city has spent, out-of-pocket, a little more than $1,700 for travel, transcription and deposition costs related to the case.

Donaldson has put in hundreds of hours, working nights and weekends. But he is paid a salary, therefore taxpayers have not been charged for additional attorney fees and other duties have not been compromised, he said.

Terry McConn can be reached at terrymcconn@wwub.com or 526-8319.


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