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No immediate ruling on Robert E. Lee statue removal, judge says

Racial Injustice Confederate Monuments
Posted at 4:35 PM, Jul 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-23 19:04:18-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- A Richmond judge has heard arguments but said he would not immediately issue a ruling in a lawsuit over Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s plans to remove an enormous statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Richmond Circuit Court Judge W. Reilly Marchant heard arguments on the case but said it was an issue of great importance and sensitivity that deserved a well thought out and reasoned opinion.

Marchant said he’ll issue a written opinion and doesn’t anticipate taking more than a week.

Marchant also issued a new 30-day injunction preventing the statue’s removal.

Attorney General Mark Herring’s office asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit and dissolve an existing injunction barring the removal of the statue from historic Monument Avenue.

The lawsuit was filed by William C. Gregory, a descendant of signatories to a 1890 deed that transferred the statue, pedestal and ground they sit on to the state.

His complaint argues that the state agreed to “faithfully guard” them.

A second hearing Thursday afternoon is set for a group of Monument Avenue residents who have filed a lawsuit seeking to block the statue’s removal for the third time.

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 value sand favorable tax treatment, similar to their initial lawsuit.

The case will also be heard by Judge Marchant.

Marchant replaced Judge Bradley Cavedo who recused himself earlier this month as he lives within the Monument Avenue Historic District; something he says he was unaware of at the start of the case.

After presenting his arguments, Attorney General Herring released the following statement.

“It is past time for this divisive, antiquated relic to come down," said Herring."This grandiose monument to a racist insurrection stands on public land as a daily, painful reminder of Virginia’s past, but it does not represent who we are as a Commonwealth today or who we wish to be in the future. It was raised as part of a deliberate effort to intimidate and demean black Virginians and it should come down as part of a deliberate effort to heal, reconcile, and grow. I remain dedicated to ensuring the prompt removal of this statue so that our community can heal and move forward towards a more equitable future."