CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The Monument Fund, plaintiffs in a long-running civil suit against the city of Charlottesville that sought to stop the city’s removal of its Confederate statues, is asking the judge who ruled in their favor last year to partially dissolve a key part of that decision.
In a statement released Friday afternoon, the group’s lawyer, Charles Weber, announced that it had filed a motion to Judge Richard Moore of the Charlottesville Circuit Court. The motion would modify the permanent injunction Moore granted last year, barring the city from removing statues of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, to comply with a new law that will go into effect on July 1.
The law, passed in this year’s General Assembly session, alters the Code of Virginia to give localities the ability to remove or re-contextualize their Confederate monuments. That had not been allowed under the previous version of the code, which classified Confederate statues as war memorials, and barred localities from disturbing them after they were erected.
“Rather than extending the litigation at great cost to both parties, the plaintiffs seek an early resolution by modifying the language of the existing permanent injunction to reflect the language of the new law,” Weber stated in the press release.
In the motion, the Monument Fund says that dissolving the injunction would “remove an obstacle to a constructive resolution.” The motion goes on to explain more of what that resolution could be: the group recently received an offer from a donor that would fund relocating the Lee statue, as well as potentially the Jackson statue. The new location would still be accessible to the public, in accordance with the new law.
At this time, the injunction granted by Judge Moore is still in effect. In a statement to NBC29 before the Monument Fund’s press release, a city spokesperson said staff were preparing an appeal. It’s unclear if that would be necessary if Moore accepts the motion.
“At this point there’s not actually a real reason for the current judge, Judge Moore to maintain that permanent injunction," UVA Law Professor Richard Schragger said “Because the law under which it was granted is no longer in existence.”
If the injunction is released or modified, the city’s next steps are laid out in the new law. First, the city must hold a public hearing with at least 30 days notice. Then, if they vote to remove the statues, they must field offers from museums, historical societies, battlefields, or other groups, for at least 30 days after that.
MONUMENT FUND PRESS RELEASE -- 6/05/2020
Today the Monument Fund and the other plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the City of Charlottesville regarding the removal of our two historic Civil War monuments, by counsel, filed a motion in the Circuit Court of Charlottesville asking the judge to modify the language of the permanent injunction so as to comply with the language of the new law set to take effect on July 1, 2020.
The plaintiffs have long argued that the vote to remove the monuments violated the monument protection law and that the Court should enjoin the City from removing or otherwise disturbing or damaging the monuments in any way contrary to the law. On October 15, 2019, after more than two years of litigation, the plaintiffs prevailed and the Court entered just such an injunction.
The plaintiffs acknowledge that the General Assembly has modified the monument protection law in ways that are less restrictive than the permanent injunction and now permit the local governing body, following a process intended to respect the views of all citizens, to remove the monuments. However, the new law does not permit the governing body to damage or destroy the monuments and requires them to offer the monuments for relocation and placement to any museum, historical society, government, or military battlefield.
Rather than extending the litigation at great cost to both parties, the plaintiffs seek an early resolution by modifying the language of the existing permanent injunction to reflect the language of the new law.