US Supreme Court asked to hear Confederate law case | Radio WGN 720

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Two Richmond residents living near the site where a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee has stood for more than a century have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a court ruling Supreme Court of Virginia who let state officials remove the imposing monument.

In an application filed with the High Court on Wednesday, lawyers for the landowners argued that former Governor Ralph Northam lacked the power to revoke an agreement to keep the statue on state-owned land on Richmond’s Monument Ave.

Virginia promised to maintain the statue forever in the Acts of 1887 and 1890 transferring its state ownership. But the Virginia Supreme Court sided with Northam last year, ruling that this obligation no longer applies because “values ​​change and public policy changes too” in a democracy.

The statue was removed in September. In their motion asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, the residents argued that the Virginia Supreme Court’s decision has implications beyond Lee’s statue alone.

“The impact of the Virginia Supreme Court’s decision affirming Governor Northam’s removal order will be widespread and significant,” attorney Patrick McSweeney wrote in the petition.

“If this Virginia ruling is followed, every contract entered into by a state government can be revoked when a governor or court — not the legislature — decides the contract violates public order. This would leave those who contract with state governments at the mercy of judges and executive or administrative officials who have no legitimate role in shaping Commonwealth public policy,” the petition reads.

Northam announced his decision to remove the statue in June 2020, 10 days after the death of George Floyd below the knee of a Minneapolis police officer sparked protests against police brutality and racism in cities across the country, including Richmond. The nationally recognized statue has become the epicenter of a protest movement in Virginia following Floyd’s death.

The unanimous Virginia Supreme Court decision cited testimony from historians who said the huge statue was erected in 1890 to honor white southern citizens’ defense of a pre-Civil War life that depended of black slavery and subjugation.

More than a century later, its continued display “communicates principles that many believe are inconsistent with the values ​​the Commonwealth now wishes to express”, the judges said.

It was unclear when the U.S. Supreme Court would decide whether or not to hear the case.

Richmond served as the capital of the Confederacy for most of the Civil War. The city has removed more than a dozen other pieces of Confederate statuary on city land since Floyd’s death, resulting in the removal of Confederate monuments in cities across the country.

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