Robert E. Lee will continue to stand over Monument Avenue for at least another three months.
Judge W. Reilly Marchant on Monday issued an injunction blocking for 90 days Gov. Ralph Northam’s efforts to remove the towering statue.
That ruling was made in a Richmond Circuit Court case filed last month by Monument Avenue resident Helen Taylor and a group of her neighboring property owners. The case asserts that removal of the statue would violate agreements and deeds from the late 1880s when the land was taken over by the state, and also goes beyond the governor’s power.
The plaintiffs claim removal of the statue would result in the loss of National Historic Landmark designation for the Monument Avenue Historic District, which is federally defined. That would cause them to lose favorable tax treatment and could result in a reduction of property values.
Marchant, in a 14-page opinion, said the injunction is warranted to allow the case to be “fully and fairly litigated.”
Marchant also on Monday dismissed the first of the controversial Lee Monument lawsuits. That case was filed in early June by William Gregory, a descendant of the family that transferred the land for the monument to the state in the late 1800s. Similarly to Taylor, Gregory claimed removal of the Lee Monument would violate the terms of the deed.
However the dismissal was overshadowed by the ruling in the Taylor case, which prevents the governor from “removing, altering or dismantling” the statue until the injunction has been lifted.
Marchant ruled that Gregory lacked standing in the case.
Attorney General Mark Herring, who represents Northam in his efforts, said in an emailed statement Monday that he “remains committed to ensuring this divisive, antiquated relic is removed as soon as possible.”
Attorney Patrick McSweeney of Powhatan represents Taylor and her fellow plaintiffs..
Marchant took over the Gregory case from Judge Bradley Cavedo, who recused himself after it was reported he lives in the neighborhood.