Charlottesville Asks Judge to Deny Injunction in Statue Lawsuit

Posted: Updated: Apr 18, 2017 04:35 PM

A nonprofit that helps Virginia localities dealing with legal issues is saying "no" to Charlottesville.

The Virginia Municipal League (VML) turned down a request from Charlottesville City Hall to help with its court battle over councilors’ decision to remove a statue of a Confederate Army general from a public park.

“If you have an accident, the agent [in reference to VML] is always going to tell you we don't cover that and that's when the negotiations starts," said councilor Bob Fenwick.

Eleven people and two groups - the Virginia Division of Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Monument Fun Inc. - filed a lawsuit against the city to stop the removal of the statue of General Robert E. Lee from Lee Park.

Councilors voted Monday, April 17, on plans to sell the statue – 3-2 vote, with Kathy Galvin and Mayor Mike Signer opposing - and rename the park – a unanimous vote.

“I do think we have a right to make sure we do all that we can to be an inclusive city, and this is part of the cost for us to be an inclusive city," said Charlottesville Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are pointing to state code which prohibits removing monuments or memorials to war veterans.

NBC29 obtained a copy of the city's response to the plaintiffs' motion. The legal filing is specifically in response to a request for a temporary injunction.

The city argues in its defense that an injunction would suspend valid legislative action taken by the Charlottesville City Council.

Charlottesville is calling on a judge to deny the injunction and dismiss the plaintiffs’ motion.

VML says it will not cover legal costs connected to the Lee statue. It cited a list of reasons for the denial, two of which are that it doesn’t cover injunctions or multi-million dollar payouts (in this case, if the city were to lose and the statue stays).

City Hall insiders say they are confident Charlottesville’s legal team can handle the case, and are continuing to move forward.

Some councilors worry about the legal price tag, while others aren't sweating it.

“I believe that it's worth it in my personal opinion. The city is often times sued by different entities," Bellamy said.

Fenwick says VML covered another City Council issue in court over free speech at meetings, and is hopeful the nonprofit can be persuaded to change its decision.

"I feel confident we're going to appeal this and we will be successful in having them cover the litigation costs," Fenwick said.

Charlottesville can appeal the decision from the VML. It's unclear if the city has started that process.

Due to the lawsuit, it's unlikely anything will happen with the Lee statue right away.

A hearing on the injunction is set for May 2 in Charlottesville Circuit Court.

  • Viewer Poll

  • Some Charlottesville councilors are considering removing the General Lee statue and / or renaming Lee Park. What do you think should be done?

  • Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:

    Remove the statue of General Robert E. Lee, keep park name
    373 votes
    Rename Lee Park, keep the statue
    1399 votes
    Remove the statue and rename the park
    3550 votes
    Don't change anything
    21711 votes
    None of the above
    875 votes
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