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The American Civil War ended in 1865, but a legal battle over the removal from the state Supreme Court’s building of two plaques honoring Texans who served the Confederacy is likely to continue in the courts for some time. Addison solo Bill Kuhn, attorney for the Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group seeking to have the plaques reinstalled in the court building, says he believes 200th District Judge Paul Davis of Austin set a “terrible precedent” on March 22 by ruling that the courts have no jurisdiction over the case. Davis’ ruling is based on Texas Government Code �2166.5011, which gives the Texas Legislature, Texas Historical Commission or State Preservation Board authority to remove, relocate or alter a monument or memorial. Kuhn says the ruling leaves no way to protect historical monuments in Texas other than going to the Legislature because the Historical Commission and the Preservation Board have no powers. “I find that to be absolutely incredible,” says Kuhn, who plans to appeal Davis’ decision to the 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin. The Sons of Confederate Veterans filed Sweeney, et al. v. Phillips, et al. shortly before the state’s General Services Commission (GSC) removed the plaques and replaced them with new ones. The Confederate group alleged in its fourth amended petition that �2166.5011 does not protect the new plaques, which the group contends were illegally erected because the defendants didn’t seek approval from either the Historical Commission or the Legislature. The group further alleged that �2166.5011 doesn’t apply to the old plaques, which had been removed before the Legislature enacted the statute in 2001. From all appearances, the plaques got caught up in presidential politics. In early 2000, the NAACP protested the display of the plaques on the grounds that the Confederate symbols featured on them served as harsh reminders of slavery in the Old South. One plaque features the Confederate battle flag and a quote from General Robert E. Lee praising the valor of the Texas regiments who “fought grandly, nobly.” The other plaque bears the words: “Dedicated to Texans who served the Confederacy.” Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Phillips, a defendant in the suit, says he had requested the removal of the original plaques in the mid-1990s, when the court building was remodeled. “I felt [the plaques] were a relic of another time and could be misinterpreted by the attorneys or the litigants who come to the court,” he says. But state officials didn’t take action on the plaques until 2000, when then-Gov. George W. Bush was running for president. Removal of the plaques “became a political issue (in the 2000 presidential race,” Phillips (says. (One academician says the timing of the plaque’s removal was “tacky.” James Paulsen, a South Texas College of Law professor who is writing a law review article on the case, says he was in Austin on the night of June 9, 2000, when the GSC removed the plaques from the court building as the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society was holding its annual banquet. Paulsen says the banquet, called the Hemphill Dinner, is named for John Hemphill, a state Supreme Court chief justice prior to the Civil War. At the time of his death in 1862, Hemphill was a Texas delegate to the Provisional Confederate Congress. “If you admire history, it was a slap in the face,” Paulsen says of the GSC’s removal of the plaques on the same night of the dinner named for a supporter of the Confederacy. The Confederate group asked Davis to declare that the defendants violated the Texas Constitution and state laws by removing the old plaques. The group also asked Davis to order the plaques to be reinstalled in the court building. Kuhn says Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1954 that authorized the state to use money from a pension fund for Confederate veterans and their widows to build the court building, which was completed in 1957. S.B. 134, passed by the Legislature in 1955, required that the building be dedicated to the Texas soldiers who fought for the Confederacy, he says. One of the replacement plaques explains that because the court building was built with money from the Confederates’ fund, it was “at that time” dedicated as a memorial to Texans who served the Confederacy. The other new plaque says Texas courts “are entrusted with providing equal justice under the law to all persons regardless of race, creed or color.” Texas Assistant Attorney General John Morehead, who represents the defendants, did not return a telephone call seeking comment before presstime on March 25. The defendants noted in special exceptions to the plaintiffs’ petition that the constitutional provision � Article 3, �51(b) � and the statute requiring the court building to be dedicated to Texas’ Confederate soldiers have been repealed. In the special exceptions, the defendants argued that there was never a mandate for the original plaques. “The now-repealed constitutional amendment and enabling legislation suggested a cornerstone or plaques, and the cornerstone and its contents were duly taken care of,” the defendants alleged. As alleged by the defendants: “[P]rior consent regarding the plaques was not necessary. Defendants actions were not unlawful.”

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