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Herring files brief asking judge to dissolve injunction that bars removal of Lee statue

Isaiah Bowen, Garth Bowen
Posted at 6:55 PM, Jul 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-20 18:55:57-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Attorney General Mark Herring has filed a brief asking a Richmond judge to dissolve the current injunction that bars the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue.

The lawsuit, filed by William Gregory, who is the great-grandson of one of the original families that signed over the monument, alleges that Governor Ralph Northam and Virginia officials have failed to protect the Lee Monument grounds and that plans to remove the statue violate the original agreement.

In the brief, Herring argues the plaintiff lacks standing to block the removal and the government's effort to take down the statue is lawful.

“The assertion at the heart of this case is staggering," Herring wrote. "Plaintiff insists that a single person—who claims, at most, an undefined fractional interest in property conveyed to the Commonwealth 130 years ago—may indefinitely veto a popularly elected Governor’s decision to relocate a massive, government-owned statue of Robert E. Lee from one area of Commonwealth ownership and control to another.

According to plaintiff, no matter how tenuous his case to relief is and no matter how much pain that statue inflicts—especially on the descendants of people Lee fought to keep in bondage—plaintiff’s preference that the statue remain where it now stands must prevail over the will of Virginians as expressed through their duly elected Governor. Plaintiff’s claims are antithetical to foundational principles of democratic governance, and those principles should begin and end this case."

On June 18, Richmond Circuit Judge Bradley Cavedo dismissed Gregory’s case for lack of standing, but extended an injunction barring removal of the statue so that the plaintiff could amend his complaint.

Herring says the new complaint includes "little in the way of new arguments or evidence."

Judge W. Reilly Marchant could decide the case when he hears the case for a permanent injunction on Thursday, July 23.

The Gregory lawsuit is the only state court litigation involving the Lee statue after several residents of Monument Avenue dropped a separate case last week.