Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater bait shop wins early round in legal fight over fish mural

CLEARWATER — A local bait and tackle shop and the American Civil Liberties Union won an initial victory Friday in their federal lawsuit against the city of Clearwater over the shop's fish mural. But there's still a lot of litigation to go.

After hearing arguments from the opposing sides last week, U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Jenkins on Friday recommended an injunction preventing the city of Clearwater from levying any more fines on the Complete Angler for its mural while the case is in litigation.

She issued the recommendation to U.S. District Judge James Whittemore, who will make the final ruling on the injunction.

"The city will abide by the judge's order, whatever that ultimately is," city spokeswoman Joelle Castelli said Friday.

The Complete Angler's owners, Herb and Lori Quintero, have already paid nearly $700 in fines and said the city threatened steeper fines if they didn't remove the mural or a First Amendment banner that now covers the mural.

"We're very grateful that Magistrate Judge Jenkins protected both art and the First Amendment in the city of Clearwater," said Maria Kayanan, associate legal director of the ACLU of Florida.

The Quinteros say the fish mural is art. The city says it's an unauthorized sign and a code violation.

In Friday's ruling, the magistrate judge expressed doubts about the legal validity of the city's arguments in the case.

Jenkins wrote that she was recommending the injunction against the city because the Complete Angler has established that its challenge to the city's sign code is "likely to succeed."

"Neither the painting nor the banner are commercial speech," she wrote. "Plaintiffs' assertion that the painting reflects a local artist's impression of the 'natural habitat and waterways' surrounding the Angler is supported by a preponderance of the credible evidence.

"Nonetheless, the city would classify the painting as commercial speech. … The city may not skirt First Amendment protections by applying a definition of commercial speech that better suits its tastes."

Mike Brassfield can be reached at or (727) 445-4160.

On the Web

To see a copy of the magistrate's ruling, visit


Clearwater bait shop wins early round in legal fight over fish mural 03/13/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 13, 2009 8:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Two boys in critical condition after Largo crash


    LARGO — A 7-year-old boy was thrown from a car in a head-on crash on Starkey Road, and both he and a 6-year-old boy were in critical condition Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  2. Trump's new order bars almost all travel from seven countries


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Sunday issued a new order banning almost all travel to the United States from seven countries, including most of the nations covered by his original travel ban, citing threats to national security posed by letting their citizens into the country.

    President Donald Trump speaks to reporters Sunday upon his return to the White House in Washington.
  3. Somehow, Rays' Chris Archer remains just shy of being an ace

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Chris Archer had another bad game Sunday.

    Chris Archer is sputtering to the finish line, his rough start on Sunday his fourth in his past five in which he hasn’t gotten past four innings.
  4. In Mexico City, hopes of finding quake survivors dwindle


    MEXICO CITY — Five days after the deadly magnitude 7.1 earthquake, the hulking wreckage of what used to be a seven-story office building is one of the last hopes: one of just two sites left where searchers believe they may still find someone trapped alive in Mexico City.

    Rescue workers search for survivors inside a felled office building in the Roma Norte neighborhood of Mexico City on Saturday.
  5. GOP health bill in major peril as resistance hardens among key senators


    WASHINGTON — The floundering Republican attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act met hardening resistance from key GOP senators Sunday that left it on the verge of collapse even as advocates vowed to keep pushing for a vote this week.

    Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate, said Sunday that it was “very difficult” to envision voting for this health-care bill.