Judge Sides with Removal but Lee Statue will Stay Put Until Lawsuit Resolved

Oct 27, 2020

Protesters gather around Richmond's Lee Monument this summer.
Credit Mallory Noe-Payne/Radio IQ

A judge in Richmond has has sided today with state officials in a closely-watched case about the Robert E. Lee Monument. The judge ruled Tuesday that Virginia’s Governor does have the power to remove the last remaining Confederate statue on Monument Avenue. But the judge also said that can’t happen until an appeal plays out.

 


Last week in court Virginia officials argued they shouldn’t be beholden to restrictive language in a 130-year old deed. In an opinion issued late Tuesday a judge in Richmond agreed, writing that Virginia has changed so much since the statue was given to the state that enforcing the deed would be against public policy. 

The judge cited recent actions by Virginia lawmakers, including language in the recently-passed budget that directed, and funded, the Department of General Services to remove and store the Lee Monument. 

“These acts of the General Assembly clearly indicate the current public policy of the General Assembly, and therefore the Commonwealth, to remove the Lee Monument from its current position on the state owned property on Monument Avenue,” writes the judge in his opinion.

Richard Schragger, with the University of Virginia Law School, says taking down the statue is now one step closer -- but not possible quite yet. 

“The commonwealth will have to wait until the plaintiffs appeal the current decision and wait until the Supreme Court decides to take that appeal or not take that appeal,” explained Schragger. “If they take that appeal then they’ll have to wait for a decision by the Supreme Court of Virginia.” 

An attorney for the Richmond residents who want the statue to stay has already promised an appeal. 

In a statement, Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring called the decision a win. “This decision puts Virginia one step closer on the path to finally bringing this divisive symbol down,” he wrote.