AG Herring: Judge to make decision on removal of Robert E. Lee statue within a week

Richmond

A lawsuit seeks to stop the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue from Monument Avenue in Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The judge presiding over the Robert E. Lee statue lawsuit will make a decision about the monument’s removal within a week, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring told the press Tuesday afternoon.

AG Herring was back in court defending the state’s plan to remove the Robert E. Lee monument. A motion to dismiss the lawsuit was heard in court by Richmond Circuit Court Judge W. Reilly Marchant.

Herring is fighting a third lawsuit filed by a group of Monument Avenue residents attempting to block the removal of the statue. The group claims taking the monument down would lower their property values.

The residents who filed this lawsuit – Helen Marie Taylor, Evan Morgan Massey, Janet Heltzel, George D. Hostetler and John-Lawrence Smith, dropped two previous lawsuits. Represented by attorney Patrick McSweeney, former Chair of the Republican Party of Virginia, the residents claim that Governor Ralph Northam’s order to remove the statue “as soon as possible” violates the state constitution and a resolution adopted by the General Assembly back in 1889.

AG Herring disagrees.

“You cannot put some flowery language into a deed 130 years ago and force Virginia to have to live with a monument of white supremacy today and on into perpetuity,” he said.

Herring adds that the 1889 resolution doesn’t allow the general public to challenge the governor. He made the state’s position clear: “This grandiose monument to white supremacy needs to come down.”

Another topic argued in court Tuesday was whether the governor has the authority to remove the statue. The plaintiffs argue that Northam does not have the sole power to remove it. However, Herring says, “He was acting clearly within the lines of the general assembly’s passed law, newly adopted law.”

The court is waiting on the plaintiffs to set a future trial date.This case has been dropped twice since June and plaintiffs said they will need at least two months ‘of discovery’ before holding a trial.

“The plaintiffs have continued to drag this out longer. They filed a case and dismissed it, filed another case and dismissed it, filed another case and now the judge is trying to get another trial date scheduled and he (McSweeney) can’t even say when he’s available for trial,” Herring said. “It’s been a little frustrating that they have drug it out, but we’re going to push it as quickly as possible.”

The judge is expected to make a decision within a week on whether the lawsuit will be dismissed or go to trial.

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