Monument Avenue property owners ask Virginia Supreme Court to rehear Robert E. Lee statue removal case


Crews work to remove one of the country’s largest remaining monuments to the Confederacy, a towering statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, Pool)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Three weeks after the Robert E. Lee statue was hoisted off its pedestal in Richmond, a group of Monument Avenue property owners that challenged the state’s authority to take it down asked the Virginia Supreme Court to reconsider its unanimous decision that cleared the way for its removal.

The justices ruled in favor of the state in two legal challenges earlier this month, dissolving the injunctions that prevented Virginia from removing the Confederate monument for more than a year. In a petition filed Wednesday seeking a rehearing, the plaintiffs in one lawsuit accused the high court of making “several fundamental errors” in its ruling.

“If those errors are allowed to stand uncorrected, the damage to the rule of law, the authority of the General Assembly, and the credibility of the Court will be profound and lasting,” the petition states.

The 11-page filing asserts that the justices’ Sept. 2 opinion ignored the plaintiffs’ contention that Virginia cannot refuse an agreement to obtain the monument and land it sits on, while also benefiting from the agreement.

“Such a result allows the Commonwealth to take property without compensation in violation of the Takings Clause in the Constitution of Virginia and the United States Constitution,” the plaintiffs contend in the petition. “If the restrictive covenants are void, the law requires that the parties be restored to the conditions that existed before the agreement was entered.”

Under Virginia law, one of the justices who initially ruled against the plaintiffs would have to certify that “there is good cause” to grant a rehearing.

“This is truly a lost cause. Every branch of government has spoken — including a unanimous ruling from the Supreme Court — in support of a more inclusive, just Virginia,” Alena Yarmosky, a Northam spokesperson, said in a statement Wednesday. “It’s time to move on.”

Legal efforts kept the Confederate monument up for more than a year after Gov. Ralph Northam ordered its removal in June 2020. On Sept. 8, work crews removed the 21-foot (6-meter) bronze equestrian sculpture of the Confederate general from its pedestal, where it was then cut in half and shipped out of the city.

Charlotte Gomer, a spokesperson for Attorney General Mark Herring, told 8News in an email that the AG’s office is reviewing the petition. “It is time for the Commonwealth to move away from a past when leaders of a racist insurrection were glorified to a future that tells our whole history fully and truthfully,” Gomer wrote.

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