Court Hearing Motions in Lawsuit Over 2 Charlottesville Statues
Lawyers involved in a year-old lawsuit over the attempt to remove two statues from downtown Charlottesville were back in court for most of Tuesday.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Lawyers involved in a year-old lawsuit over the attempt to remove two statues from downtown Charlottesville were back in court for most of Tuesday.
Two hearings in Charlottesville Circuit Court Tuesday, June 19, are paving the way for a lawsuit against the city and members of City Council to go to trial. Judge Richard Moore first heard motions dealing with discovery of facts. Plaintiffs are seeking access to a host of documents from the defendants, including emails and text messages.
The lawsuit argues that then-members of Charlottesville City Council - Mike Signer, Wes Bellamy, Kathy Galvin, Kristin Szakos and Bob Fenwick - acted outside the scope of their authority when they voted to remove the statues of Robert E. Lee and Thomas Johnathan “Stonewall” Jackson from Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park and Justice Park, respectively.
"I have no regrets with what I did and why I did it and I hope this all gets resolved, but I really would look forward to having a day in court and explain why I did what I did," says Fenwick. "I think it's important for the city, the state, and the country."
An attorney for Charlottesville argued in court Tuesday that the plaintiffs’ request was too broad, claiming it was close to a “witch hunt.”
The judge agreed with the defense, and is limiting the timespan from which documents can be requested by the plaintiffs.
Last week, Judge Moore ruled that those individual defendants are not entitled to immunity and may be liable for damages - including the costs of litigation.
The lawsuit was amended when the same councilors approved to cover the statues with "mourning shrouds" for several months after the deaths of Heather Heyer and two members of the Virginia State Police. All three died on August 12, 2017, the day of the Unite the Right rally. Judge Moore later ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, ordering the city to remove the tarps. The city complied, and took down the tarps on February 28.
The judge had reversed one of his rulings back on April 11, allowing plaintiffs the opportunity to argue the statues were damaged while under the tarps. As a result, plaintiffs may be able to receive funds for attorney and litigation fees.
Orange plastic fencing remains around both statues to prevent people from trespassing.
Several trial dates are set in the case: October 26, January 31, and February 1.
Judge Moore will also rule on another amended lawsuit from the plaintiffs at a later point.