The city councilors who voted for the removal of Charlottesville's two Confederate monuments may be liable for damages and legal fees if the court ultimately rules in favor of the plaintiffs in the case, according to a written opinion signed Thursday by Charlottesville Circuit Judge Richard E. Moore.
In a news release, The Monument Fund, a group involved in the lawsuit against the city, announced that the court had sent the parties a letter explaining its opinion on whether the councilors are entitled to immunity.
“There may still be some questions, even if defendants are not immune, as to what damages they might be liable for, but they cannot, in any event, be immune to injunctions or fines or other sanctions for disobeying court orders,”
In the nine-page letter, Moore says that he thinks the council “was acting beyond its authority” and that it was not a “legitimate” legislative activity when the council voted to remove the statues, in contravention with a state law that prohibits the disturbance or removal of war memorials.
The letter goes on to say that granting the city and the councilors “immunity in this case and context would make [Virginia Code] 15.2 1812 and 1812.1 meaningless as to local authorities.”
The judge also determined that covering statues, building a tall fence or other efforts to obscure viewing of the statues also could be a violation of the state law.
“The court had also previously ruled that the plaintiffs will recover their litigation costs including attorneys’ fees if they prevail, which today’s order confirms,” the news release says.
City officials could not be reached immediately for comment after the news release came out Thursday evening.
A hearing in the case related to procedural matters following the ruling is scheduled for June 19.