August 8, 2020

Judge Who Originally Approved Sketchy UNC ‘Silent Sam’ Settlement Now Voids Deal, Realizing ‘Confederate’ Group Had No Standing

Back in December, we wrote about the crazy situation in North Carolina, mostly unearthed by lawyer Greg Doucette, that the University of North Carolina had “settled” a lawsuit before it was even filed. The background story was crazy, and this is only the briefest of summaries. The “Silent Sam” statue was put onto the UNC campus by the “United Daughters of the Confederacy” in 1913 as part of a process that happened throughout the south many decades after the Confederacy lost the Civil War to try to put in place racist monuments and to pretend that there was some noble cause behind the war to defend enslaving people. As more and more people have recognized the racist purpose, history and intent of these monuments, many have been removed. Students at UNC toppled the Silent Sam statue a few years ago, and the University has basically just tried to avoid talking about it since, especially as racist-celebrating officials tried to legislate that such monuments to racism must stay put.

Then, the day before Thanksgiving, the Sons of Confederate Veterans (not the Daughters…) announced that it had “settled” a lawsuit with UNC, in which it would be receiving $2.5 million and the statue from the University, and would be building some sort of museum to house it off campus. But among the many oddities involved in this was that UNC had approved the settlement a few minutes before the lawsuit was filed, and then the judge in the case, Allen Baddour, had approved the settlement literally minutes after the case had been filed. It seemed pretty clearly that this was a coordinated effort to create a fictitious scaffolding on which to tell a face-saving story, rather than a legitimate use of the courts.

Indeed, as Doucette quickly turned up — only to then face a bogus DMCA takedown notice over — the head of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Kevin Stone, had sent around an email to his group’s members, flat out admitting that the group had no standing to sue. Since then, various students have tried to intervene in the case, which the Judge rejected. However, now, at this belated date, he seems to have recognized that the Sons of Confederate Veterans (as they themselves admitted) had absolutely no standing to sue, and thus has voided the settlement.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour — who originally signed off on that settlement — ruled Wednesday that the group lacked standing to bring its lawsuit in the first place.

The judge announced his decision at a hearing in Hillsborough, N.C., as five UNC students and a faculty member, represented by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, intervened to try to stop the settlement.

Incredibly, UNC is still defending its decision to not just give this monument to racism to a group that celebrates its racist history, but to give them a huge chunk of money as well:

“The Board of Governors knew from the very beginning that this was a difficult but needed solution to meet all their goals to protect public safety of the University community, restore normality to campus, and be compliant with the Monuments Law,” Rand said in a statement. “The Board of Governors will move forward with these three goals at the forefront and will go back to work to find a lasting and lawful solution to the dispute over the monument.”

While it is true that North Carolina’s ridiculous Monuments Law might put the University in a difficult position with regards to complying with that law — nothing in that law says they also need to fund a group with $2.5 million to celebrate a racist legacy.
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