LOUISVILLE, KY (WDRB) — The Kentucky Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments over whether the city of Louisville improperly removed the controversial John B. Castleman statue from the Cherokee Triangle in 2020.
An order issued Thursday said a judge will review a lawsuit brought by a group called Friends of Louisville Public Art against the subway government that claims the city improperly moved statues of Confederate soldiers.
“If we win, they may have to put it back,” said Steve Porter, an attorney representing the Friends of the Louisville Public Art.
Jessica Wethington, a spokeswoman for Mayor Greg Fischer, referred any comments to the ruling to the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office.
“We are reviewing all options available to the Louisville Metro government,” said a spokeswoman for the county attorney’s office.
Previously, the city had said Fischer was “disappointed by the slowdown in the appeals process” but believed moving the statue was the right decision.
The statue is currently in a city storage facility.
The Monument in the Heights has been the center of controversy for years because its critics see Castleman as closely associated with the Confederacy and white supremacy. The statue was built in 1913 and has been vandalized several times.
In the lawsuit, the group argues in part that two commissioners of the Historic Landmarks Commission, which voted to remove the statue, had a conflict of interest because they were employed by Fischer.
Fischer has said the equestrian statue of Castleman in civilian clothes is a symbol of “racism or bigoted ideology”.
But groups fighting to save the statue argue that Castleman redeemed himself later in his life, abandoning the Confederate cause, calling on white soldiers to pay tribute to black officers in World War I and helping build parks in Louisville system.
The high court ordered arguments to be heard after a state appeals court upheld a Jefferson Circuit judge’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit.
In December, an appeals court partially ruled that “there are no facts to support a conflict of interest claim.”
Porter said the High Court’s decision to reopen the case was “a huge victory”.
There was no written decision explaining the Supreme Court’s reasons for hearing the case. The parties will have 60 days to file briefs with the court before oral arguments are presented.
Fischer announced in 2018 the removal of Castleman and George Prentice statues, saying they were symbols of racism. The Prentice statue was removed from its location in front of the downtown library in December 2018.
On May 9, 2019, Louisville’s Landmarks Board voted to remove the Castleman statue.
The landmark committee vote follows a January 2019 vote by the Cherokee Triangle Review Committee, which ended in a tie, meaning the statue could not be removed.
That’s when the city appealed to the Landmarks Commission, which gave the green light to remove the statue.
Porter said the committee’s decision to remove the statue from the park Castleman helped create was “arbitrary and wrong” and cited several “deficiencies” in the process.
The lawsuit alleges that officials and employees who voted in the process should have recused themselves, and that the Landmarks Commission did not consider the recommendations of the Public Art and Monuments Advisory Committee.
Dubbed a “landmark” in Louisville Metro publications, the statue has been seen as a symbol of the neighborhood for more than a century, according to the lawsuit.
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