Talbot County officials want a federal lawsuit seeking removal of the Confederate monument from the county courthouse grounds dismissed, according to Wednesday court filings.
The Maryland Office of the Public Defender and the Talbot County NAACP filed a lawsuit in May seeking the removal of the monument from the grounds of the Talbot County courthouse lawn in Easton. Plaintiffs and advocates argue that the statue’s presence is racist and unconstitutional.
The plaintiffs say the presence of the monument on the courthouse lawn violates the U.S. Constitution’s 14th amendment, which guarantees due process and equal protection of laws. The lawsuit charges that the monument’s location is “facially discriminatory.”
But in a Wednesday motion to dismiss the case and a memorandum supporting that motion, attorneys for the county argue that the plaintiffs “have failed to state any claim upon which relief may be granted.”
“The Complaint alleges no specific example where any client of either Ms. Petticolas or the OPD was deprived of due process or equal protection due to the presence of the Talbot Boys statue on the Courthouse lawn,” the memorandum reads.
Attorneys for the county argue that the plaintiffs haven’t done enough to prove that the statue’s presence is discriminatory. The memorandum charges that plaintiffs “failed to identify any occasion that, because of the mere presence of the Talbot Boys statue, any Plaintiff or other member of the public was denied access to the Circuit Court or prevented in any way from petitioning the County for redress.”
The county, in the memorandum, also argues that the statue issue is a “political question.”
“The County respectfully submits that the issues raised by the Complaint are inherently local and not ones calling for the intervention of a federal court.
“This is so because the question of when, or where, Confederate symbology transgresses into an area of unlawfulness transcends judicial determination, just as does fashioning manageable judicial standards for resolution.”
The county’s attorneys further argue that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction in the case.
“The law governing this Complaint establishes Plaintiffs lack standing to bring any of the claims asserted,” the memorandum in support of the county’s motion to dismiss reads. “And, even if standing were not an issue, Plaintiffs have failed to state any claim upon which relief may be granted. For these reasons, the Complaint should be dismissed in its entirety.”
The memorandum also argues that all claims are barred by limitations, noting that the limitations period on all civil claims is, at most, three years:
“The Complaint alleges that Ms. Petticolas has ‘been obliged to pass by’ the statue for fourteen (14) years. The OPD’s alleged injuries are coextensive, at least, with the injuries alleged by Ms. Petticolas.
“Mr. Potter allegedly has been ‘directly involved with removal of the statue since 2015’ and became aware of its meaning when he was first involved with advocating for a statue of Frederick Douglass. The NAACP has been ‘for years’ speaking out against and advocating for removal of the statue, and its injuries must be, at least, coextensive with Mr. Potters.
“There can be no bona fide dispute that if Plaintiffs incurred an actionable injury, a point not conceded, the cause of action accrued when Plaintiffs first observed the statue as an offensive symbol, which, on the face of the Complaint occurred for all Plaintiffs well before the limitations period for Complaint began to run.”
Advocates have been lobbying for removal of the Talbot Boys statue from the courthouse lawn in Easton for years. Talbot County Council members rejected a proposal to move the statue last year, although rallies to remove the monument have continued.
Read the full memorandum here:8-1
By Bennett Leckrone
John Griep contributed to this article.