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Taylor, et al. v. Northam, et al.

2021 WL 3918940 (2021)

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Taylor, et al. v. Northam, et al.

Virginia Supreme Court

2021 WL 3918940 (2021)

Facts

In 1887 land located in the Commonwealth of Virginia was conveyed to the Lee Monument Association to erect a monument of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. In 1889 the Virginia General Assembly passed a joint resolution, under which the Commonwealth of Virginia was required to erect the monument in perpetuity. In 1890 the monument and land on which it was erected was conveyed to the commonwealth on the condition that the monument be preserved. In 2020 Governor Ralph S. Northam (defendant) approved a plan to remove the monument. Helen Marie Taylor and others owning or entrusted with property near the monument (collectively, Taylor) (plaintiffs) filed an action in state circuit court against Northam and other commonwealth officials (collectively, Northam) (defendants). Taylor argued that the deeds for the monument’s lands contained restrictive covenants requiring the preservation of the monument in perpetuity and that the 1889 resolution supported the monument’s preservation as a matter of law. Northam argued that the governor had authority to remove the monument, and the restrictive covenant was unenforceable because it violated public policy. While the suit was pending, the commonwealth passed the 2020 Budget Amendment, which repealed the 1889 joint resolution and called for the monument’s removal. During the trial, Northam introduced the amendment into evidence. Northam also introduced multiple expert witnesses to testify about the monument’s controversy. The circuit court determined that the deeds contained unenforceable restrictive covenants and returned a verdict for Northam. Taylor appealed on the ground that the 1889 resolution articulated the public policy of maintaining the monument, that the restrictive covenants were enforceable, and that the amendment should not have been introduced into evidence. The Virginia Supreme Court reviewed the case.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Goodwyn, J.)

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