AG’s office calls for end to Lee Monument injunction

The Robert E. Lee Monument has become a focal point and daily gathering place of the protests in Richmond. (BizSense file photo by Michael Schwartz)

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.”

Click to access legal brief.

“(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.

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Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
18 days ago

I’m hazy on the timing and the geography of a ruling on the word “inperpetuity”, but I believe it took place in Loudoun County in the late ’80’s. It went to a higher court, perhaps at the state level. The ruling, as my fading memory recalls, was that “inperpetuity” is too vague a term to provide ones land rights “forever”. The length of ones rights to land must be defined in tighter terms, as in a number of years. I stand to be corrected by our legal beagles who read these pages.

Matt Faris
Matt Faris
18 days ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Bruce, here’s an interesting discussion on the topic by our own Justice Powell:
https://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Perpetuity

Last edited 18 days ago by Matt Faris
Ian Coleman
Ian Coleman
18 days ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

I find it interesting the AG isn’t really arguing against the legality of the original contract, but taking the stance of “we don’t like it anymore, so we should change it.”

Jane Roe
Jane Roe
18 days ago

The pleading should be amended from “a popularly elected Governor’s decision” to something like “a popularly elected spineless, lying hypocrite of a Governor, who wore Blackface and later lied about it and endorses baby killing and did not have the grace to resign for the embarrassment caused the Commonwealth (as Lee would have done), who, being politically castrated, decided out of virtue signaling to the mob to remove a statue…” Signed “Your Blackface wearing AG, who chooses not to enforce all of Virginia’s laws (as required by the job), did not have the grace to resign (even though saying the… Read more »

Chris Crews
Chris Crews
18 days ago
Reply to  Jane Roe

If you’re going to call someone a “spineless, lying hypocrite” you should maybe use your real name, Jane.

Jane Roe
Jane Roe
18 days ago
Reply to  Chris Crews

When you can convince me I won’t get doxxed, Antifa won’t “visit,” and the police will be allowed to do their jobs, maybe I, and thousands of others, will. Ugly times. But my point stands. The Governor and AG are hardly the paragons of virtue to judge. Didn’t Ralph’s family own slaves? Shouldn’t he resign? Wouldn’t that be honorable?

Ashley Smith
Ashley Smith
17 days ago
Reply to  Jane Roe

Surely Jane Roe would be the first to proclaim they don’t live in fear. Le sigh. We’re making racists scared again, and Jane doesn’t like that.

Chris Crews
Chris Crews
17 days ago
Reply to  Jane Roe

When you have nothing to hide, Jane, you have nothing to fear. And who, exactly, is this “Antifa”? Are you more worried about that or about secret police snatching people from their cars in acts of (to quote our Acting DHS Secretary) “proactive arresting”?

J. Jackson
J. Jackson
17 days ago

What will happen if Stoney goes ahead and gives the order to remove? Will there be a fine? Jail time? I say go ahead leave it. The people will take it down one chunk at a time. The line has already been crossed.

karl hott
karl hott
17 days ago

This site reports business news in Metro Richmond. Regardless of one’s values, I hope we all can agree that these statures are bad for business. The longer this story is in the local and national headlines, more businesses will conclude “maybe I should reconsider opening an office/outlet in Central Virginia”. More tourists will cross Richmond off their list of places to visit this year or next. Fewer parents will consider sending their kids to VCU or UR. For the sake or economics it is time for a new chapter to be written that doesn’t include Confederate Monuments.

Matt Faris
Matt Faris
17 days ago
Reply to  karl hott

Karl, I respectfully feel that many of the folks from outside the city limits will spend less time and money in the city. Not based on the removal of statues, but based on the continued appearance of lack of control. Wasn’t the city doing OK prior to the recent unrest? RVA was a hot spot for food and entertainment. I don’t think the statues hurt that progress at all, but I think the lack of leadership and safety will do far more to restrict the progress of the businesses that existed in the city in the years and months prior… Read more »

Ed Christina
Ed Christina
2 days ago
Reply to  Matt Faris

1-“Unrest” causing business downturns–the protests are not what is hurting business, its the terrible mishandling of the pandemic by the president “jane Roe” loves so much. 2-“Each tribe or band shall have the right to posses, occupy, and use the reserve allotted to it, as long as grass shall grow and water run, and the reserves shall be their own property like their horses and cattle.” Article 5 of the Treaty with the Comanches and Other Tribes and Bands, 12 August 1861[1] See that paragraph above? All the promises made in that got ignored. Why does Gregory think he’s so special? Generations… Read more »

Matt Faris
Matt Faris
1 day ago
Reply to  Ed Christina

Ed, I’m afraid once the restrictions are lifted and folks are free to return to Richmond, many from the other localities will choose to shop elsewhere. The businesses are slow now due to the pandemic, but they are everywhere. We all work from the same rules issued by the governor. Many people I know in surrounding counties have said they are done with Richmond. It’s too bad for the hard working business owners we all want to support. The manner in which the mayor has handled this entire ordeal is the problem for many. Not just the statues (as I… Read more »