The hearing in Monroe on Monday, December 11 before Judge Robert G. James had more questions than it did answers.
The Shreveport Chapter #237 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) filed a federal lawsuit on October 19 seeking a ruling that the Caddo Commission could not remove or force the removal of the Confederate Memorial from the Caddo court house grounds.
The lawsuit also requested a temporary injunction against any removal action by the Commission until the trial on the merits which was granted.
The hearing was to determine if the restraining order should be continued until the trial.
The UDC was represented by Dave Knadler from Mansfield. The Commission was represented by parish attorneys Donna Frazier and Henry Bernstein.
After testimony from five witnesses and argument by counsel, the case was taken under advisement. Judge James advised an opinion would be rendered in thirty days.
Several issues were raised in the testimony. These are important because one requirement to have the injunction continued is to show a likelihood of success by the UDC at trial.
The first issue was the language of the land reservation. The testimony and evidence included a June 18, 1903 resolution of the Caddo Police Jury (the predecessor to the Commission). The minutes of that meeting read as follows:
“The rules were suspended and Mr. W.H. Wise on behalf of the
Daughters of Confederacy made an earnest appeal for an
appropriation of $1,000.00 for the confederate monument, at same
time requesting that the monument association be given the front
plat or portion of court house square as a site for the monument.
Moved by J.S. Young that the $1,000.00 be allowed and the front
plat of court house square be reserved for that purpose, which
motion was unanimously adopted.”
Both the UDC and the Commission agreed that no deed transferring ownership of the site to the UDC had been filed in Caddo public records.
The language “the front plat of court house square be reserved” did not have any further clarification. Specifically, the time duration of the “reservation” was not specified.
Dr. Gary Joiner testified that he believed the reservation of the plot for the memorial was intended to be in perpetuity. He cited the $1,000 contribution by the Police Jury and that additional funds were donated by the Jury to later cover the cost of the memorial.
Another issue raised was of who actually owns the 500 block of Texas Street; where both the memorial and the Caddo court house are located.
The parish claims ownership from none other than Captain Henry Miller Shreve and Shreve Town Company. Dr. Gary Joiner testifIed that the Larkins Edward family also had an ownership claim to the 500 block.
No doubt the ownership issue will be litigated at trial. If the Parish is not the legal owner of the court house square, then the Parish cannot force removal of the monument.
The last issue was the significance of a parish website posting indicating that the UDC owned the land. An entry on the Caddo Parish website concerning the memorial was also introduced into the record.
This language, which is still on the website, reads as follows:
“A very interesting fact about the land on which the monument sits
is that it does not belong to the Commission but to Daughters
of the Confederacy. However this small piece of land is surrounded
by the courthouse square.”
Neither the Commission website master nor the Parish Administrator Dr. Woodrow Wilson knew how or why this language was posted on the website. Both indicated that this comment was on the prior website before they assumed their current positions.
Dr. Wilson testified that the threshold to put information on the parish website was that it had to be “truthful, factual and relevant.” Wilson said that he believed this entry could be in the “realm of human error.”
Judge James ruled in favor of the Parish by dismissing the seven Commissioners who were named individually in the UDC suit. This was expected. Public officials have judicial immunity when acting in their official capacity.
It is expected that Judge James will continue the injunction until he rules on the case. The memorial has been on the courthouse grounds on the 500 block of Texas Street for well over 100 years. Seemingly no substantial harm will result to the public from its presence during the duration of this litigation.
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