Virginia is unusual in that its law prohibits local authorities from removing a monument to a war veteran once erected. They cannot "disturb or interfere" with it; nor "prevent its citizens from taking proper measures and exercising proper means for the protection, preservation and care of same." The statute is found at Va. Code §15.2-1812 (prohibiting local authorities from disturbing monuments to war veterans).
An enforcement provision was added in 2000, allowing any interested person to sue to recover damages for encroachments, in addition to any other legal remedies. There is also a criminal vandalism statute protecting monuments at Va. Code §18.2-137 (prohibiting defacing, damaging, or removing monuments).
A group of local citizens created the Monument Fund, Inc. to challenge attempts by the City to move or alter or disturb or encroach upon either monument. We have been successful in raising funds not only in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area, but from contributors all over the country.
A team of seven lawyers went to work on the case. On Monday, March 20, 2017, we filed the lawsuit in Charlottesville Circuit Court. The Complaint charged the city with (1) violating Virginia’s monument protection law, (2) acting outside the authority delegated to them by the Virginia General Assembly and (3) violating the terms of Paul Goodloe McIntire’s gifts.
In May 2017 Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Moore granted a temporary injunction against removing the Lee monument. At our request in October 2017 Judge Moore enlarged its protection to Jackson as well, and extended the injunction until the end of the case.
Judge Moore differed with and declined to follow a Danville decision which considered the law inapplicable to monuments erected before a 1997 amendment. Our win is now echoing across other municipalities in Virginia. Plans to remove other monuments have been put on hold.
Judge Moore's injunction decision has not (yet) been appealed. One experienced and prominent lawyer called the judge's carefully tailored ruling "unassailable."
With the monuments temporarily protected, the lawsuit will proceed to determine whether that protection will become permanent. The judge may also eventually determine whether changes proposed for the parks are a prohibited "disturbance" or "interference."
In February 2018, Judge More granted our request to include the giant trash bags within the injunction, calling them illegal from the outset. He ordered them removed.
For more up to date information, check our news blog on the lawsuit, under “news” upper right on this page.