An advisory opinion issued today by Attorney General Mark R. Herring holds that some Confederate monuments—such as the one in his hometown of Leesburg—are protected from removal by state law.
Herring’s opinion lays out his position on the legal debate over whether localities can take down Confederate monuments, such as the Robert E. Lee statue at the heart of controversy and violence in Charlottesville. Citing a decision in the Circuit Court of Danville, Heritage Preservation Association, Inc. v. City of Danville, he writes that state law does not protect monuments erected before 1998 in cities, since the law protecting those cities was passed that year and is not retroactive.
In counties, however, the law has protected Confederate monuments since the first law was passed in 1904, Herring wrote. Leesburg is not an independent city, and the Confederate monument in town stands in front of the old county courthouse on county property. It was put up in 1908, four years after the first law passed.
He added that other legal constraints, such as strings attached to a gift or grant funding, could also affect statues.
“Careful investigation of the history and facts concerning a particular monument in a given locality should be completed to determine what, if any, restrictions might apply,” Herring concluded.