Destruction of Wall Mural Leads to Lawsuit Against San Diego Unified School District

Steven T. Lowe

Close up Image of a 405 Sign in Irvine, CA headed South Bound to San Diego

On February 25th, 2021, Artist and Chicano-rights activist Salvador Torres filed a lawsuit against San Diego Unified School District and Balfour Beatty Construction. The suit arises from the destruction of a mural Torres painted for the school district back in 1988. According to the complaint, the San Diego School District and Balfour Beatty’s demolition of his mural violated federal copyright and California state art-protection laws.

Torres claims the city of San Diego and Balfour Beatty Construction’s demolition of the mural at Memorial Junior High School was an insult to Torres and harmful to his reputation. In addition, Torres claims that the destruction of the mural was a violation of the Federal Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990.

Torres also contends that, under California state law, the mural’s destruction without his permission violated his “right of integrity.”  The moral “right of integrity” gives an artist the right to prevent any distortion, modification, or mutilation of their work that prejudices their honor or reputation. Actions that have been found to violate an artist’s moral right of integrity include, altering a mural by painting clothing over nude figures and selling separated panels of a single work of art.

Torres is represented by Lawrence G. Townsend of Lawrence G. Townsend Law Offices.

Counsel information for the San Diego Unified School District and Balfour Beatty has not been provided at this time.

The case Torres v. San Diego Unified School District et al., case number 3:21-cv-00343, is in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

* Lowe & Associates (“The Firm”) is an entertainment and business law firm located in Beverly Hills, California. The Firm has extensive experience handling cases involving copyright and art law, having provided top-quality legal services to its clients since 1991. The Firm is recognized for its many achievements, including successfully litigating many high-profile cases.

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