Jenner & Block Partner Andrew J. Thomas and Associate Lisa J. Kohn recently received the 2014 “Artistic Expression Award” from theACLU Foundation of Southern California for their pro bono efforts representing Efren Montiel Jimenez, a respected and accomplished California artist. The award was presented at the ACLU’s 20th Annual Law Luncheon on Friday, June 13, 2014.
In September 2013, five of Mr. Jimenez’s paintings were accepted for display at the County of San Bernardino’s annual Hispanic Heritage Month Art Exhibit in the county’s Government Center building. Shortly after the exhibit opened, however, a county representative demanded that two of the paintings be removed because they depicted nude female figures. After several failed overtures to the county by the ACLU and the National Coalition Against Censorship, asking that the censored paintings be restored to the exhibit, the assistance of Jenner & Block was enlisted.
Together with the ACLU, a firm team, spearheaded by “A.J.” and Lisa, filed suit against the county. They also requested a temporary restraining order to restore the artwork to the exhibition and to extend the display of Mr. Jimenez’s paintings for the amount of time they had been ordered removed. The complaint and TRO papers argued that the county had created a public forum for the display of art in the Government Center rotunda and that it could not discriminate among artists or their work absent a compelling governmental interest.
Faced with litigation, the county quickly became eager to negotiate and soon agreed to a settlement granting Mr. Jimenez all the relief the firm had requested. His paintings were returned to the Government Center, and the county agreed to extend the exhibit so it could be viewed in its entirety for the full amount of time originally intended.
Additional members of the firm team included Associates Christina Avedissian and Nary Kim.