With a new judge on the case, Attorney General Mark Herring is continuing his fight to squash the lawsuit that thus far has prevented the state from taking down the Robert E. Lee Monument on Monument Avenue.
Herring on Monday filed a motion in Richmond Circuit Court, asking Judge W. Reilly Marchant to dissolve the injunction that has been in place since early June in the case filed by William C. Gregory, a descendant of the family that sold the land for the Lee statue to the state in the late 1800s.
The injunction was issued by Judge Bradley Cavedo, who removed himself from the case last week after it was reported that he lived in the vicinity of the statue and in the Monument Avenue Historic District.
The case then was handed to Marchant, who’s expected to hear Herring’s argument at a hearing on Thursday at 2:45.
Herring, in a 27-page brief, said of the Gregory matter: “The assertion at the heart of this case is staggering.”
“(Gregory) 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.”
Gregory claims that the deed on the deal between his ancestors and the state prevents Gov. Northam from removing Lee.
“Plaintiff’s claims are antithetical to foundational principles of democratic governance, and those principles should begin and end this case,” Herring said. “And under our democratic system, no one—including a purported heir of long-dead grantors—may force a sovereign Commonwealth to forever continue broadcasting a message with which it profoundly disagrees or to display and maintain on government-owned property a massive statue of a person symbolic of a time it no longer wishes to glorify.”
Marchant also took over for Cavedo in a case filed by anonymous plaintiffs seeking to block the city from taking down the remaining monuments that it owns. That case is still pending.
There’s also one other pending suit that’s attempting to block Mayor Levar Stoney from taking down what’s left of the confederate monuments in the city. That case was filed July 10, by Monument Avenue residents Helen Marie Taylor and Evan Morgan Massey, a longtime coal executive.
Judge David Eugene Cheek Sr. is handling that case.