State high court criticizes Judge Cavedo in throwing out Confederate statue injunction

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 9/3/2020, 6 p.m.
Complaints that Richmond Circuit Court Judge Bradley B. Cavedo made up the law in a bid to halt Mayor Levar …
Bradley Cavedo - 1991 photo

Complaints that Richmond Circuit Court Judge Bradley B. Cavedo made up the law in a bid to halt Mayor Levar M. Stoney’s removal of racist Confederate statues just gained support from the Virginia Supreme Court.

In an order issued Aug. 26, the state’s highest court threw out a July 10 restraining order Judge Cavedo slapped on Mayor Levar M. Stoney and the city to prevent them from removing the statue of Confederate Gen. A.P. Hill in North Side.

The state’s highest court also sharply rebuked Judge Cavedo for putting the 60-day order in place.

Judge Cavedo, who later removed himself from the case and others involving Confederate artifacts, issued the injunction on behalf of an anonymous plaintiff he allowed to remain unidentified.

“The circuit court abused its discretion,” stated the Virginia Supreme Court order that found the plaintiff had no legal right to seek an injunction and that Judge Cavedo had no authority to issue it.

The order was a clear victory for Mayor Stoney and his legal team that had sought the review, and it also bolstered the claims of attorney David Baugh and former City Councilman Sa’ad El-Amin. Both have filed a separate request with the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission seeking Judge Cavedo’s removal for abuse of his position.

The commission’s review of such complaints is conducted in secrecy.

In its order, the state Supreme Court found that Judge Cavedo should have thrown out the anonymous plaintiff’s case rather than accepting the pleadings as valid.

With six justices participating, the Supreme Court found that the state law the plaintiff relied upon had been changed as of July 1 and no longer granted private citizens the right to challenge government action involving Confederate statuary.

“Because Anonymous failed to allege a potentially viable right of action, he or she was not entitled to a temporary injunction,” the order noted.

The court did not address Mayor Stoney’s authority as city director of emergency management at the time to remove Confederate statues owned by the city.

The statue of A.P. Hill is the last of 12 city-owned Confederate statues still standing. The city-owned Confederate statues on Monument Avenue, as well as one in Libby Hill Park and Monroe Park were either removed by the city or toppled by protesters.

Removal of Gen. Hill’s statue at Hermitage Road and Laburnum Avenue is more complex because it sits above his grave.

City Council, meanwhile, is in the process of seeking bids to dispose of 10 of the 12 city-owned Confederate statues, including that of Gen. Hill.

The council has not addressed the fate of the two remaining Confederate statues or taken any steps to deal with an unrelated statue of Christopher Columbus, which protesters pulled down in June.

Separately, the future of the state-owned statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue remains tangled in a legal fight. Gov. Ralph S. Northam’s efforts to remove it have been blocked by another temporary injunction issued by Richmond Circuit Court Judge W. Reilly Marchant. Mr. El-Amin is seeking to intervene as a defendant in that case to support removal of the statue erected in 1890 as a show of support for white supremacy.