State Supreme Court affirms AG opinion on removal of Confederate statues
The Supreme Court of Virginia today released an opinion in a Charlottesville case that a state law that purported to bar removal of Confederate monuments was not retroactive and did not apply to statues built in independent cities before 1997.
Attorney General Mark Herring made this now-affirmed argument on at least three occasions: in an official opinion, in litigation over Norfolk’s Confederate statue, and in an amicus brief in this case, City of Charlottesville et al. v. Payne et. al.
“I said nearly four years ago that the law purporting to block removal of Confederate statues did not apply retroactively and was not the blanket prohibition that its proponents had made it out to be, and today the Supreme Court of Virginia confirmed that we were right,” Herring said. “I have worked hard to help remove poisonous Confederate propaganda from our publicly-owned spaces, because I believe it glorifies a false history and sends a dangerous and divisive message about who and what we value. This work will continue, and I look forward to making our case for the removal of the state-owned Robert E. Lee statue before the Supreme Court of Virginia this summer.”
Herring said in a 2017 opinion and in subsequent legal filings, including in this case, that the law purporting to bar removal of Confederate monuments: “does not apply to any monument or memorial erected on any property within an independent city prior to 1997.”
In agreeing with Herring’s analysis, today the Supreme Court of Virginia said: “There is no language in the statute that demonstrates an intent on the part of the General Assembly for the prohibitions in Code § 15.2-1812 to apply to monuments or memorials erected by cities prior to 1997… The plain language of the statute does not manifest an intent that the prohibitions in the statute are to apply to memorials erected by cities prior to the enactment of Code § 15.2-1812.”