Settlement Talks Set for Lawsuit Over 2 Charlottesville Statues
The legal battle over two statues in downtown Charlottesville is headed into settlement talks.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The legal battle over two statues in downtown Charlottesville is headed into settlement talks.
An attorney for the plaintiffs confirms both sides are set to meet with a retired judge on February 19.
“It's probably in all of the parties' interest to settle the case. This case is becoming very expensive for all the parties, ultimately someone is going to paying for all these expenses,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Charles L. “Buddy” Weber, Jr.
Plaintiffs filed suit against Charlottesville, City Council, and the individual councilors who had voted to remove the statues of Confederate Army Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas Johnathan “Stonewall” Jackson from two public parks. They believe Mike Signer, Kathy Galvin, Wes Bellamy, Kristin Szakos, and Bob Fenwick acted beyond their authority and violated a state law which prohibits removing monuments or memorials to war veterans.
Weber, who is a Vietnam War veteran, believes all war memorials should be protected from, "the shifting tides of public opinions." The plaintiffs’ attorney says he hopes this lawsuit sets legal precedent.
Recently, Judge Richard Moore ruled the councilors involved - current and former - can be held individually liable for monetary damages. The judge hasn't ruled on a number of issues and Weber suspects he won't until after the settlement conference is over.
If no settlement can be reached, the lawsuit is expected to head to trial. The case could be heard by a jury in September, or by a judge alone, as early as March 11.
01/31/2019 Press Release from Attorney Charles L. Weber, Jr.:
On behalf of the Monument Fund and the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the City of Charlottesville, I am issuing the following update:
General Assembly Action
- Yesterday the General Assembly killed House Minority Leader Toscano's proposal to change the monument protection law to allow local authorities to remove war memorials. The subcommittee vote was 6-2 against the bill.
- This is the latest in a recent string of setbacks for the city and the individual city councilors.
Individual City Councilor Liability
- Judge Richard Moore confirmed in a letter opinion issued January 22, 2019 that city councilors may be held individually liable for monetary damages arising from the litigation over the fate of our two civil war statues of Robert E. Lee and "Stonewall" Jackson.
- Judge Moore had previously ruled that the individual city councilors did not enjoy legislative immunity for such damages; however, their new attorneys from Jones Day, one of the largest law firms in the country, asked him to reconsider his prior ruling.
- In December, Jones Day also filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the Supreme Court of Virginia asking that court to order Judge Moore to reconsider and change his ruling.
- Last week, two days after Judge Moore's letter ruling, on January 24, 2019, the Supreme Court of Virginia refused to grant their petition.
- Thus, at this point, the named city councilors face a trial in which they may be held individually liable for substantial monetary damages.
Judicial Settlement Conference
- On February 19, 2019, the parties will meet with retired Judge Daniel R. Bouton to discuss whether and on what terms the case might be settled by agreement.
- This conference is closed to the public.
- If the parties cannot reach an agreement to settle, then the case will proceed to trial in either March (trial by judge) or September (trial by jury).