Louisiana Record

Friday, December 6, 2019

New motions filed in professor's lawsuit seeking equal application of monument ordinance

By Karen Kidd | Aug 25, 2016


NEW ORLEANS – The Tulane University professor challenging a city ordinance that promoted a New Orleans' City Council vote to remove statues of Confederate-era historical figures says he has received much support for his case.

"I have received nothing but encouragement and understanding from my peers, even those who disagree with me," Richard Marksbury, who is on sabbatical from Tulane, told the Louisiana Record. "Most appreciate the fact that the entire issue of monument removal has been a top-down phenomenon that was driven by political ambitions. Otherwise, the issue would have been put to a vote of the residents of Orleans Parish, which it was not."

Two new filings in the case earlier this week in U.S. District Court for Louisiana's Eastern District oppose a defense motion for summary judgment and ask for oral arguments in reference to that motion.

Marksbury's lawsuit, filed in July, and which originally named as defendants New Orleans Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu and City Council member-at-large Jason Williams, has since been consolidated into a case brought with the Monument Task Committee. The preservationist group is trying to stop city efforts to remove statues of Confederate-era military and political figures, including Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard. The consolidated case also names as a defendant U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

With the consolidation, Markbury's case must be resolved along with the Monument Task Committee case, which is currently under appeal.

The mayor's office did not respond to a Louisiana Record request for comment.

Although other published reports have suggested otherwise, Marksbury has said repeatedly that bringing down the statue of Andrew Jackson in New Orleans' Jackson Square isn't what his lawsuit is about. He maintains he filed his lawsuit because the New Orleans' City Council failed to take his argument as seriously as it had that of mayor's arguments on the same nuisance ordinance the council cited to vote for removal of the statues.

Marksbury says the defense motion for the case to be dismissed is aimed more at him than at the preservationist group.

"In my case, the city decided to ask that it be dismissed claiming that my pleading was inadequate," the Orleans Parish resident said. "My pleading pointed out that I need not disclose all of my case in a pleading, but state enough to warrant moving to the next stage, i.e., the discovery stage."

Marksbury's lawsuit followed the City Council's vote to remove the statues, which Landrieu, council members and others have said are in violation of a city nuisance ordinance, specifically Section 146-611. Landrieu appeared before City Council July 9, 2015, amid months of attention and controversy, and appealed for the monuments to be relocated.

The City Council voted in December that the statues of Lee in Lee Circle, Confederate President Davis on Jefferson Davis Parkway and Beauregard at the entrance to City Park, be taken down. The council vote also covered the removal of an historical marker on Iberville Street that honors the Battle of Liberty Place.

Not mentioned in the lead-up to that vote was Marksbury's letter to the clerk of the City Council requesting the opportunity to appear and present his own concerns about the ordinance, Marksbury said in his lawsuit. That letter is one of a number of exhibits he has provided the court in support of his case.

Marksbury was not allowed to address the full City Council, as had the mayor, but was given 15 minutes to present his concerns about the city's ordinance to the council's Government Affairs Committee on March 31. Marksbury then was still dean of continuing studies and summer school at Tulane. He has since stepped down from that post and, at the end of his sabbatical, has plans to return as a faculty member.

Marksbury told committee members the city's nuisance ordinance is poorly written, ill conceived and dangerous because of how broadly it can be applied by any elector in the city. Marksbury cited Andrew Jackson's statue as an example, providing a lengthy retelling of Jackson's various sins and atrocities committed against multiple cultural groups and political opponents.

The city did not respond to Louisiana Record requests for comment.

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U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana