Statue lawsuit plaintiffs ask for change of venue

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- The plaintiffs who brought a lawsuit seeking to prevent Charlottesville from removing two Confederate statues are asking for a change of venue.

The lawsuit was brought by the Monument Fund and several other plaintiffs. It claims that Charlottesville City Council members Mike Signer, Wes Bellamy, Bob Fenwick, Kristin Szakos, and Kathy Galvin broke state law when they voted in 2017 to remove the statues of Robert. E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson from Charlottesville parks.

In their filing with the court on May 22, the plaintiffs say it will be impossible to seat a fair jury in Charlottesville, in part because a large part of the jury pool has voted for the councilors who are named in the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs also say the temporary courtroom the Charlottesville Circuit Court is using while its normal building is being renovated is too noisy to host the trial and doesn't have enough space for the expected crowd of attendees.

The defendants disagreed, saying it is not possible to say whether a jury can be seated until the court actually tries to do it. Also, the defendants have requested a bench trial, which means a jury may not be needed.

Charlottesville Circuit Judge Richard Moore ruled in April that the statues are war monuments, which are protected under state law. But that doesn't guarantee the plaintiffs will prevail. Moore still has several other motions under consideration.

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