Appeals court dismisses lawsuit against UT Austin for removal of Confederate statues

Austin
Confederate Symbols Davis Statue_119917

A statue of Jefferson Davis is seen on the University of Texas campus, Tuesday, May 5, 2015, in Austin, Texas. As University of Texas administrators consider a request to remove a statue that symbolizes the Confederacy, the number of memorials in Texas honoring the Confederate cause and its leaders continues to grow. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit against the University of Texas at Austin’s decision to remove Confederate statues.

The dismissal said David McMahon and Steven Littlefield with the Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans sued UT President Greg Fenves in hopes of reversing its decision to relocate several Confederate statues.

In 2017, Fenves issued a statement calling for the removal of three remaining Confederate monuments on the UT campus.

Those statues were of John H. Reagan (Confederate Postmaster General),  Albert S. Johnston (a Confederate general) and Robert E. Lee ( commander of the Confederate army).

President Fenves noted in his statement that after white supremacists and neo-Nazis protested the removal of a confederate statue on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville at that time, that then more than ever, Confederate monuments had “become symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism.”

President Fenves said at the time that student leaders, students, faculty members, staff members and alumni shared their thoughts with him about the statues. Following those conversations and a review of the 2015 task force report, he decided to  relocate the remaining four statues.

But McMahon and Littlefield claimed in the suit that the UT Board of Regents breached a previous agreement to build memorials of Confederate soldiers and it exceeded its authority over the university. Both of them claim to be descendants of Confederate people.

A district court previously dismissed McMahon, Littlefield’s case for lack of standing on their first amendment violation claims and then declined to exercise their jurisdiction over state law claims.

The plaintiffs also tried suing in a state, then federal court before, but the suit failed both times.

“Because Plaintiffs have not alleged a particularized injury, they lack standing to bring their First Amendment claims. We AFFIRM the district courts’ judgments,” the ruling states.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released a statement on the decision Monday, saying the case was “correctly dismissed months ago for lack of standing.”

“We are pleased that the Fifth Circuit agreed with our arguments and affirmed the district court’s decision,” Paxton wrote. “As the Court recognized, the plaintiffs had no legal injury from the University’s decision to move property on its campus.”

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