Judge issues ruling on Lee statue

File image of Robert E. Lee statue in Lee Park in Charlottesville
File image of Robert E. Lee statue in Lee Park in Charlottesville(WHSV)
Published: May. 2, 2017 at 10:25 PM EDT
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A Charlottesville judge has granted part of a temporary injunction in the lawsuit over the future of the Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson statues.

Following an injunction hearing Tuesday afternoon, Judge Richard Moore ruled that in the public's interest, the Lee statue cannot be moved for a period of six months.

But he said the Charlottesville City Council can still rename Lee Park and continue its planning for the statue removal and redesigns of the park.

Moore said he will not make a ruling on the Stonewall Jackson statue.

Several groups including Charlottesville residents, the Charlottesville Monument Fund and the Sons of Confederate Veterans sued the city after the city council voted to remove the Lee and Jackson statues.

According to the groups, both statues are monuments to the Civil War and Virginia's monument law protects the statues from being removed. They also argue that moving the statues would violate the terms of Paul McIntire's gift when he gave both statues to Charlottesville almost 100 years ago.

The city has argued that the statues are not monuments to the Civil War and are not protected by Virginia's monument law. According to the city, neither statue was erected to commemorate the Civil War and Virginia's war monument statute cannot be retroactively applied (The statute was originally codified in the 1950s, after the statues were erected in the 1920s).

The city also argued that the only terms of McIntire's gift were that Lee and Jackson Parks remain parks, and no buildings be erected on the premises. The city said moving the statues and renaming the parks does not violate either of those terms.

Tuesday evening, Moore agreed that he does not believe moving or renaming the statues violated the terms of McIntire's gift. But he did say he believes Virginia's monument law applies in this instance and therefore granted part of the temporary injunction against the city.

"That's what the rule of law is all about, transcending people's personal feelings towards one another, or groups that feel certain ways about things, and just having an open discussion about it and following the law," said Ralph Main, attorney for the plaintiff. "That's the big thing."

Speaking briefly after the hearing, City Councilor Kristin Szakos reiterated that the injunction was only temporary and only prevented the city from moving the Lee statue for now.

A hearing on the merits of the claims in the lawsuit will be scheduled in June, at which point a judge will decide what, if any, of the suit can be thrown out.

 Stewart Praises Judge's Blocking Removal of Robert E. Lee Statue

Woodbridge, VA -  Republican gubernatorial candidate Corey Stewart released a statement today praising Judge Richard E. Moore's injunction against the Charlottesville City Council's vote to remove and sell the Robert E. Lee statue in Lee Park. 

"I am glad that we still have judges that understand the rule of law," Stewart said. "Even though the radical Charlottesville City Council went rogue, Judge Moore has restored my hope in our political system," he said. "We have been given another opportunity to push back against the out-of-control politically correct left that seeks to silence their political opposition," Stewart concluded. 

The injunction delays the removal of the statue for six months.