CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- A big decision in the lawsuit over confederate statues in downtown Charlottesville is likely bad news for the city.
Charlottesville Circuit Judge Richard Moore has ruled that the statues are war monuments, which are protected under state law. That likely means the city doesn't have the legal right to take them down.
In his nine page ruling, Moore cites the fact that both Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are depicted in their military uniforms and on horses associated with their time in the Civil War.
"I believe that defendants have confused or conflated 1) what the statues are with 2) the intentions or motivations of some involved in erecting them, or the impact that they might have on some people and how they might make some people feel,” Moore writes. “But that does not change what they are."
Moore finds the issue to be so clear-cut that "if the matter went to trial on this issue and a jury were to decide that they are not monuments or memorials to veterans of the civil war, I would have to set such verdict aside as unreasonable..."
The lawsuit was filed after Charlottesville City Council voted to remove the statue of Lee in early 2017. City councilors Mike Signer, Kathy Galvin and Wes Bellamy are named individually for their roles in that vote, as are former councilors Bob Fenwick and Kristin Szakos.
While legal analysts have said this ruling could sink the city's defense, Moore notes that this ruling doesn't guarantee the plaintiffs will prevail.
He still has several other motions under consideration.Plaintiffs spokesperson Buddy Weber says plaintiffs are pleased, but also cited the remaining motions as questions that still need to be answered.
In an email, city spokesperson Brian Wheeler says the judge now has to decide whether the city has to pay damages and attorneys fees and whether that question will go to trial in September.
In his ruling, Moore writes that he hopes to rule on remaining motions in the next month.
A hearing in the case is set for Wednesday.
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