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Monument Avenue residents file lawsuit to block Lee statue removal for the third time

Injunction extended against removing Lee statue in Virginia
Posted at 1:22 PM, Jul 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-22 23:46:39-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- A group of Monument Avenue residents has filed a lawsuit to block removal of the Robert E. Lee statue for the third time since June.

Patrick McSweeney filed the complaint Tuesday on behalf of five plaintiffs, four of whom are property owners in the vicinity of the statue.

The lawsuit, filed by longtime Monument Avenue resident Helen Taylor, Evan Morgan Massey, Janet Heltzel, George D. Hostetler, and John-Lawrence Smith, argues that removing the monument could reduce property values, similar to their initial lawsuit.

Governor Ralph Northam, Virginia Secretary of Administration, Director of the Virginia Department of General Services, and the Director of the Virginia Division of Engineering & Buildings were named the defendants in the lawsuit.

"That means they have filed a lawsuit, dropped it, refiled their lawsuit, sought to consolidate it, decided not to consolidate it, opposed consolidation, dropped the suit, and now have refiled their suit again and apparently want to consolidate again," said the Office of the Attorney General in a release.

The group initially filed a lawsuit arguing that they feared the removal of the statue would lead to them losing tax credits and property value on their homes.

That lawsuit was filed in state court, but Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced that he had moved the matter to federal court. In response, the plaintiffs dropped the suit altogether on and refiled a new, similar suit in state court, arguing to removal of the statue would violate the terms of the deed conveying the statue.

The group then dropped the second lawsuit on July 16.

The Office of the Attorney General says the group now has also filed for an injunction to stop the removal of the statue and wants to participate in a Thursday hearing before Judge W. Reilly Marchant in the Gregory case.

The Gregory case, 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.

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

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

Herring has filed a brief asking the Richmond judge to dissolve the current injunction that bars the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue.

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