Judge Overturns University Settlement Over ‘Silent Sam’ Statue

February 13, 2020 Updated: February 13, 2020
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A state court voided a university deal that required it to transfer a Confederate monument known as “Silent Sam” to the Sons of Confederate Veterans and pay $2.5 million toward the statue’s housing and care.

The University of North Carolina (UNC) system reached the agreement with the North Carolina branch of the group in late November, garnering significant attention. The settlement was reached after the Sons of Confederate Veterans filed a lawsuit against the university over the disposition of the monument, which had been toppled by protestors in 2018. The agreement requires the Confederate group to maintain possession of the monument outside the public university system in the state.

Orange County Superior Court Judge R. Allen Baddour had originally signed off on the agreement, which led to a resolution of the legal challenge. But in a reversal on Wednesday, Baddour ruled that the Sons of Confederate Veterans did not have legal standing to bring the original lawsuit against the university and vacated the consent judgment, reported the university’s paper, The Daily Tar Heel.

The Silent Sam statue was erected to honor alumni of the university who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. It was the subject of protests in recent years and was toppled during a rally by activists in August 2018.

In December that year, the UNC recommended a new $5.3 million building to house the statue but the plan was rejected by the university’s board of governors.

A state law passed in 2015 prevents state agencies from permanently removing any object of remembrance. UNC says since the Silent Sam statue is a state-owned monument that is an object of remembrance, it is subject to the law.

After the settlement was reached, a group of five UNC students and a faculty member, represented by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, sought to intervene in the case. The students and faculty member were challenging the jurisdictional basis for the settlement. Their request for intervention was denied but it prompted a hearing to discuss the Sons of Confederate Veterans rights over the statue and the trust.

“Today is [an] important victory for the people in confronting the false and divisive Lost Cause narrative and the racist ideology it entrenches,” Elizabeth Haddix, an attorney for the students and faculty member, said in a statement.

Ripley Rand, a lawyer for the UNC System and the UNC Board of Governors, said in a statement that the purpose of the settlement was to protect public safety, restore the normality to the campus while being compliant with the Monuments Law.

“While this was not the result we had hoped for, we respect the Court’s ruling in this case. Judge Baddour gave us a fair hearing, and he afforded all parties the necessary time and consideration to be heard,” Rand said. “The Board of Governors will move forward with these three goals at the forefront and will go back to work to find a lasting and lawful solution to the dispute over the monument.”

C. Boyd Sturges III, the lawyer for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, told the Epoch Times in an emailed statement that his client disagrees with and is disappointed by the judge’s decision while adding that his client will obey and return the statue.

“My client, SCV, negotiated in good faith with the University of North Carolina to find a way to 1) find a place where the statute and the veterans it represents could be honored and 2) UNC could find a way to obey the law and get a statute that has caused consternation off their campus,” he said.

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