Construction workers today began moving the Confederate monument at Third Street on the campus of the University of Louisville. | Photo by Boris Ladwig.
Construction workers beginning the process of moving the Confederate monument in April, prior to the temporary injunction. | Photo by Boris Ladwig.

The city can remove the controversial Confederate monument near the University of Louisville campus, according to the final ruling of Jefferson Circuit Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman.

McDonald-Burkman made a verbal ruling on May 25 denying the injunction of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who claimed the city did not own the memorial for Confederate soldiers and that local and state laws prevented its removal. Her written ruling on Thursday officially dismissed the case and lifted the injunction that had prevented the city from removing the 121-year-old monument that has stood at its current location since 1954.

While acknowledging the passionate beliefs both for and against the monument, McDonald-Burkman’s ruling said the facts of the case guided her ruling and that “the emotional and political aspects will be left for others to debate.” She argued the city clearly owned the monument and its removal to another location — funded by the U of L Foundation — would not constitute the destruction of a historic landmark.

“The city has not taken action that would constitute intentional mistreatment of the monument,” wrote McDonald-Burkman. “The Foundation has hired experts to ensure, as much as possible, the monument can be removed safely. The intent is not to demolish the monument with bulldozers and sledgehammers; expensive experts certainly would not be necessary to effectuate that outcome.”

The city previously has stated the memorial could be moved to a cemetery, Civil War museum or a historical site.

At a press conference Monday morning, Fischer stated that he always thought the city was “on the right side of the law” in the case, and the memorial will remain in place until a suitable location can be found within the next month. Fischer said that a Public Arts Commission meeting will be held soon to discuss possible locations.

Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell, who personally argued the case for Metro Government, said at a press conference Monday morning that the plaintiffs’ case was a “sham,” which attempted to mislead the court with false allegations. Due to what he said was the plaintiffs’ lack of credibility in this case, he suggested that Mayor Fischer not give any credence to their input on where the memorial should be located.

“Anyone is free to show up at those (Public Arts Commission) hearings and say whatever they want, but I certainly would not think the plaintiffs in this case would be a party at the table in negotiations with Metro Government,” said O’Connell. “I wouldn’t recommend it.”

O’Connell said that the plaintiffs may decide to appeal the decision.

Judge McDonald-Burkman’s ruling to dismiss the plaintiffs case with prejudice can be read below:

Ruling on Confederate memorial

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Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]