High Stakes in the Charlottesville Monuments Litigation
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
A Charlottesville circuit judge recently ruled that two statues of Confederate generals — Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson — that sit in Charlottesville city parks are “war memorials” under a Virginia state statute that bars their removal. Those statues were the site of the white supremacist rally in the summer of 2017, in which a counter-protester, Heather Heyer, was murdered by a self-avowed white supremacist.
The city council had voted to remove both statues, which also sparked a lawsuit against the city that is still being litigated. While the judge’s recent decision is significant, two other issues are looming and they might be even more consequential.
The first issue still to be decided is whether the city councilors can be held personally liable for voting to remove the monuments in the first place. The judge has decided that the councilors do not enjoy so-called “common law” legislative immunity but has yet to consider whether they enjoy “statutory” immunity. If the former decision is allowed to stand, and the judge rules against the city councilors on the second, he could do great damage to local government in Virginia.