Judge steps down

Richmond Circuit Court Judge Bradley B. Cavedo recuses himself from Confederate statue cases as formal complaint filed against him with judicial commission

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 7/23/2020, 6 p.m.
Richmond Circuit Court Judge Bradley B. Cavedo has given up his fight to preserve the statues of racist Confederate gener- …
Bradley Cavedo - 1991 photo

Richmond Circuit Court Judge Bradley B. Cavedo has given up his fight to preserve the statues of racist Confederate generals in the city, potentially opening the door to removal of the biggest statue of all — the one to Robert E. Lee at Monument and Allen avenues.

Stung by criticism from the Free Press and private attorneys that he has favored those seeking to preserve and protect the statues and violated a judicial requirement to be impartial, Judge Cavedo stepped aside last week from hearing any further cases involving the statues.

He recused himself from the lawsuits, handing off the litigation to Richmond Circuit Court Judge W. Reilly Marchant.

Still, the questionable injunctions Judge Cavedo imposed to protect the state-owned Lee statue and to block City Hall from removing any more city-owned icons of slavery defenders remained intact as of late Wednesday.

Judge Marchant has scheduled a hearing on Thursday, July 23, to consider dissolving the indefinite injunction Judge Cavedo issued in June barring Gov. Ralph S. Northam from removing the Lee statue.

Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring, in representing the governor, has raised concerns that the Cavedo injunction has given veto power to a private individual, William C. Gregory, a descendant of family members who donated the land where the statue stands and who cannot show any ownership interest.

Mr. Herring has called that legally improper and urged that the suit brought by Mr. Gregory be dismissed and the restraining order removed so the governor can proceed to remove the statue.

Complicating the issue, a group of six property owners on Monument Avenue, who previously dropped their lawsuit challenging the removal of the Lee statue, refiled it on Wednesday night and are expected to ask Judge Marchant to combine their suit with the one filed by Mr. Gregory. The property owners’ claim is that removal of the Lee statue would reduce their property values in an area designated as an historic district by city, state and national registries.

Judge Marchant, in his first test on Tuesday, declined to overrule his colleague and kept intact a separate 60-day injunction Judge Cavedo issued on July 16 barring City Hall from removing any additional Confederate statues it owns.

Judge Marchant noted that lawyers for the city and Mayor Levar M. Stoney have appealed the case to the state Supreme Court, and he declined to do his own review of whether the plaintiff in that case, identified only as “Anonymous,” should have veto power over city actions.

Meanwhile, the state Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of the injunction ahead of a scheduled Richmond City Council vote on Monday, Aug. 3, to authorize removal under a new state law.

David P. Baugh, concerned over the way Judge Cavedo has handled the statue litigation before stepping aside, has filed a complaint with the state Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission, or JIRC, seeking the judge’s removal from the bench for allegedly violating two judicial canons governing impartiality.

Mr. Baugh cited the fact that Judge Cavedo lives just a block away from where the Confederate statues stood, as well as other evidence he believes shows that Judge Cavedo, who previously served on JIRC, has presented views incompatible with the requirement to be impartial.

Mr. Baugh wrote in his complaint that “Judge Cavedo has clearly not accepted” the restrictions on his speech and conduct that are imposed to support the appearance of judicial impartiality.

“It is evident that Judge Cavedo continues to suffer from his bias and prejudices articulated as a student at the University of Richmond,” Mr. Baugh concluded. “He must not be allowed to remain as a member of the judiciary.”