Charlottesville Judge Hears Motion in Ongoing Statue Lawsuit
The ongoing lawsuit over the potential removal of two statues in downtown parks once again went before a Charlottesville judge Wednesday morning.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The ongoing lawsuit over the potential removal of two statues in downtown parks once again went before a Charlottesville judge Wednesday morning.
A lawsuit was filed against the city on March 11, 2017, as a way to stop plans by Charlottesville City Council to remove and sell the statues of Robert E. Lee and Thomas Johnathan “Stonewall” Jackson.
A motions hearing got underway around 9 a.m. Wednesday, April 11, in Charlottesville Circuit Court.
Judge Richard Moore decided to reverse his previous ruling on whether or not plaintiffs can collect for damages when the two statues were covered by tarps. As a result, plaintiffs can now attempt to receive funds for attorney and litigation fees.
Moore clarified, "No physical damage can be awarded" in regards to the statues.
Plaintiffs also continued to argue councilors do not have the right to make the decision to take down both the statues. They cited the state law protecting monuments and war memorials, which is at the crux of this lawsuit and whether or not it applies to these two statues. Plaintiffs claim each member of City Council - Mike Signor, Wes Bellamy, Kathy Galvin Kristen, Szakos, and Bob Fenwick - acted unlawfully when making their decision.
”So the issue is, did they all know what the law is? Did they intentionally violate the law? Did they recklessly violate the law? These are all issues that the judge is going to have to decide,” said plaintiff Charles Weber.
Defense attorney Lisa Robertson argued City Council deserves immunity, that their vote only counts as a whole, and councilors cannot be held accountable as individual people. She also said City Council did not knowingly make the decision maliciously.
"They [councilors] did what they were supposed to do: vote," the defense said.
The defense said none of the councilors have benefited from the decision, neither statue has been removed, and that, “no damage has been done."
Judge Moore asked for both parties to highlight the main points they want considered in a letter format for him to make his ruling on whether or not this case will go to trial. Both sides have two weeks to write up a letter highlighting the main points they want considered.
Moore is considering if City Council did something knowingly unlawful, and if it did something unlawful, are the councilors still immune?
Black Lives Matter, SURJ (Showing Up For Racial Justice), and other activist groups said their members would hold protests during Wednesday's hearing. However, there did not appear to be any gathering of any particular group around the courthouse.