Judge to issue ruling over billboard lawsuit
BATON ROUGE - Arguments are over in a lawsuit pitting Louisiana against the left-leaning political group MoveOn, and a ruling from District Judge Shelly Dick is expected sometime early next week.
Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne sued after the group lifted a state tourism campaign slogan to attack Governor Jindal. The battle in federal court centers around a billboard MoveOn sponsored outside of Baton Rouge.
"It's a close case. We knew that all along," Dardenne said Wednesday outside federal court. "You're balancing free speech rights with trademark law."
Dardenne concedes that he's in a tough battle. Dardenne oversees the state's office of tourism. He sued the political group for trademark infringement. The billboard is located one I-10 and is critical of Jindal regarding his decision not to expand Medicaid.
"MoveOn members around the country are speaking out," said MoveOn Executive Director Anna Galland outside the courthouse. "We're proud to be out there telling folks and we'll keep fighting."
Dardenne said the billboard stole trademarks from the state's "Pick Your Passion" toursim campaign, and sued trying to take the billboard down.
"The taxpayers have invested a lot of money in promoting that brand to bring people to Louisiana and have people travel here," Dardenne said. "We wanted to protect that brand, even though we respect MoveOn's right to be critical."
Galland said the state is fighting the wrong battle.
"Rather than worrying about MoveOn's billboard," Galland said. "They should be figuring out how to get healthcare for 242,000 who don't have it."
With a group of supporters outside the courthouse holding a banner with signatures of more supporters, MoveOn said the state's lawsuit is actually bringing more publicity to their cause.
"The state is, if anything, bringing attention to the issue," Galland said. "And the issue is people out there with no access to healthcare because of the governor of the state."