Judge to order Charlottesville to pay $365K to cover plaintiffs’ lawyers in statue case

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) — A Charlottesville Circuit Court judge will award plaintiffs in a lawsuit over two Confederate statues more than $300,000 in attorney’s fees. Plaintiffs had sought approximately $604,000.

In September, Judge Richard E. Moore ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the suit. He issued a permanent injunction barring the city of Charlottesville from removing statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall” Jackson.

Moore ruled that the statues are war monuments under a Virginia law which protects all war memorials from removal by local governments.

The city argued against that state law, saying it violated the Constitution because the statues send a racist message, but Judge Moore ruled the law's intent was historic preservation and not discrimination.

However, the long-running lawsuit – sparked by the city's initial decision in 2017 to remove the two statues, which was the initial cause for the 'Unite the Right' rally – was not settled at that time, and has continued for months as Judge Moore considered possible financial compensation.

Moore said while the plaintiffs were not entitled to damages, they could receive attorney’s fees.

The Daily Progress reported the judge made a ruling on the amount of the attorney’s fees on Tuesday, January 21. Moore says he expects to enter an order sometime in March that gives the city 90 days to either pay the money in full or in monthly installments of just over $73,000.

The suit argued the city of Charlottesville and then-councilors violated state law in 2017.

In October, City Council voted to appeal the case. While Moore’s order is expected to be entered soon, it is unclear how the case will proceed.

Additional complications could come if a proposed bill in the current Virginia General Assembly session passes, which would give local governments across Virginia the authority to remove war monuments.