U-B file photo:
Customers step out of Inland Octopus beneath the store's mutil-story artwork and on to Main Street in Walla Walla Thursday morning. After a legal battle toy store owner Bob Catsiff has lost his battle, challenging the constitutionality of the City of Walla Walla's sign code.
Matthew B. Zimmerman
10/12/12, 11:43 a.m. - Story has been updated with more detail. Click on the the "As of" date above to see previous version of the story.
WALLA WALLA — The saga of the purple octopus sign may be coming to an end.
The Washington state Supreme Court on Wednesday denied a petition from Robert Catsiff, owner of Inland Octopus, to review a Walla Walla Superior Court decision against his attempt to retain the mural.
Catsiff had claimed the city’s sign code infringes on his right of free speech, is overbroad and vague.
The Superior Court judgment issued by Judge Donald W. Schacht in June 2011 rejected Catsiff’s claims and stated the city’s wall-sign size and height restrictions and permitting requirements are constitutional, valid and enforceable.
Catsiff appealed Schacht’s decision to the Supreme Court, which denied his petition for review.
Catsiff commissioned the giant purple octopus sign at his leased toy store at 7 E. Main St. on Labor Day in 2010. He didn’t have a permit and the city ordered him to remove the mural or bring it into compliance with the sign code’s size limitations.
The city ordered a $100-a-day fine beginning Oct. 14, 2010. The fines have continued to add up while the case has gone through the courts and are now at more than $72,000.
Catsiff could choose to file a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court for further review. His attorney, Michael de Grasse, said this morning a decision has not yet been made on whether to do that.
“We’re thinking about the next step.” De Grasse said. He had no comment on the state Supreme Court’s denial of review, nor a specific date by which his client would decide whether to petition the U.S. Supreme Court for a review. In May he told the Union-Bulletin he and Catsiff did not expect to lose at the state Supreme Court level.
Catsiff has 90 days from the date of the latest order to file. The daily fines at the property will continue to tally.
So far none of the attempts to obtain a judicial ruling to keep the mural in place have been successful, including an effort to get an injunction, a subsequent hearing, an appeals court motion for consideration and the Supreme Court’s rejection of a review of that decision, said Walla Walla City Attorney Tim Donaldson.
If Catsiff chooses not to petition the U.S. Supreme Court, he would have 30 days to bring the painting into compliance. If he doesn’t, the city can take it upon itself to do the work.
Donaldson said the cost to the city to defend its position has been relatively minimal. In May the cost had been reported at about $1,700 out-of-pocket for travel, transcription and deposition costs. Donaldson said this morning that amount hasn’t changed.
Vicki Hillhouse, Rick Doyle and Alasdair Stewart contributed to this report.