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Judge drops one injunction against Robert E. Lee statue removal

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iStock/niratBy: IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News

(RICHMOND, Va.) — The legal battle over the future of the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, Virginia, had two major developments on Monday.

Judge W. Reilly Merchant dismissed a case filed by one resident who is blocking Gov. Ralph Northam’s June 4 order to remove the statue from Monument Avenue. He also granted an injunction on a second suit that’s aiming to keep the Confederate statue in place.

In the first case, the resident, who is a great-grandson of one of the statue’s land donors, contended that the state didn’t have the legal authority to remove the statue of the Confederate leader. Judge Merchant ruled the plaintiff’s claims “fail as a matter of law.”

“The plaintiff has articulated no substantial legal right sufficient for the court to create a declaratory judgment,” Merchant wrote in his ruling.

Meanwhile, another lawsuit filed against Northam’s order continues to play out in the courts. Merchant ordered a 90-day injunction on Monday against the removal while residents of Monument Avenue make their case against the governor’s order.

“The fact obviates the need for the court to address the remaining…counts,” the judge’s order said.

A spokeswoman for Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s office said in a statement that he filed a motion to dismiss that suit.

“Attorney General Herring remains committed to ensuring this divisive, antiquated relic is removed as soon as possible,” the spokeswoman said in a statement.

The statue’s removal is among the monuments to Confederate leaders that have come under extra scrutiny following the Black Lives Matter protests. Statues and other monuments around Virginia have been removed over the last few months, including busts from inside the state Capitol.

A descendant of Robert E. Lee told ABC News he supports the removal, calling it a “no-brainer.” And Lee himself opposed statues to Confederate leaders. “I think it wiser,” he wrote in 1869, “…not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.”

The statue’s opponents have held rallies outside the statue since the end of May and on several occasions projected images of Black figures, including the late Rep. John Lewis, on the statue to decry racism.

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