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Fifth Cir. Gives New Orleans the OK to Remove Confederate Statues

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on March 07, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Just south of New Orleans' central business district, a short walk from the Superdome, stands the Robert E. Lee Monument, a pillar-mounted statue of the Confederate general. Stands for now, that is. Lee's statue is one of four monuments celebrating the state's confederate past scheduled to come toppling down, after the City Council voted to remove the statues in 2015.

And that toppling can begin post haste, now that the Fifth Circuit has rejected a challenge to the statues' removal brought by local preservation societies and the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Court Rejects Challenge to Statues' Removal

The plaintiffs first filed their lawsuit just hours after the city council voted to remove the statues, according to CNN. They contested both ownership of the statues and the land upon which they rested. But a federal district court rejected their claims, as did the Fifth, in yesterday's Monumental Task Committee v. Chao ruling. And the Fifth rejected the claims, emphatically.

Though appellants cited 12 causes of action, their preliminary injunction application relied on only two, a federal statutory claim and a due process claim based on Louisiana's negotiorum gestio doctrine. Both claims lack "legal viability of support," the Fifth explained in a ruling that took up barely three pages.

[B]y failing to show a constitutionally or otherwise legally protected interest in the monuments, they have also failed to show that any irreparable harm to the monuments -- even assuming such evidence -- would constitute harm to Appellants.

Further, though the appellants had contested ownership of the monuments and land, the Court could find "no evidence in the record suggest that any party other than the city has ownership."

Removal Could Begin Soon

In addition to Lee's statue, the city council also voted to remove monuments to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Confederate general P.T. Beauregard, and a monument to the Battle of Liberty Place. The Battle of Liberty Place, also known as the Battle of Canal Street, was a post-war insurrection by the White League.

Removal of three of the four monuments could begin shortly, with the city releasing bids for their removal on Tuesday. The fourth, commemorating the Battle of Liberty Place, is subject to a separate federal court order.

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