Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue will stay until court decides fate

The Robert E. Lee Monument were a focal point and daily gathering place of the protests in Richmond earlier this summer. (BizSense file photo)

The legal battle over the potential removal of the Robert E. Lee statue from Monument Avenue could soon be decided at a trial.

Richmond Circuit Court Judge W. Reilly Marchant on Tuesday ruled that four of the five legal arguments made by a group of Monument Avenue residents looking to prevent the governor from taking down the statue should be heard in court beginning at 1 p.m. Oct. 19.

The decision came after Marchant dismissed one of the five counts and dismissed two of the five plaintiffs from two of the counts. Plaintiffs in the case include Helen Marie Taylor, who has brought several Lee Monument suits in recent months, and Evan Morgan Massey, a longtime coal executive.

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 to erect the statue, and that the governor’s desire to take down the towering relic goes beyond the power given to him by the state’s constitution.

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.

With the trial date set and a 90-day injunction already in place from a prior ruling earlier in August, Marchant’s decision means Lee will continue to loom over Monument Avenue for at least nearly two more months.

The statue and the grassy area that encircles it have become a regular gathering place since the protests began this summer in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Meanwhile, an anonymous plaintiff filed a petition with the Virginia Supreme Court to reinstall the city-owned Confederate monuments that were removed in recent weeks at the ordering of Mayor Levar Stoney, according to a Richmond Times-Dispatch report.

Stoney’s efforts caused the toppling of a handful of monuments, most notably that of Stonewall Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart on Monument Avenue.

There are at least two separate cases pending in Richmond Circuit Court against Stoney related to the matter, filed by plaintiffs who seek to stop the further removal of the few remaining Confederate relics still standing in the city limits. The anonymous plaintiff in one of those two cases is the same anonymous plaintiff in the Supreme Court matter, according to the Times-Dispatch.

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Paul Karns
Paul Karns
24 days ago

Why not include the details about which count and which plaintiffs were dismissed?

Robert Watkinson
Robert Watkinson
24 days ago

I fail to see how this has anything to do with Richmond business. Fluctuations in property values is the risk homeowners take.