Confederate statue

Workers place webbing around the top of Winston-Salem’s Confederate monument as they prepare to remove it from the corner of Fourth and Liberty streets on March 12.

Asking a state appeals court to toss a challenge to the removal of the Confederate statue from downtown Winston-Salem, attorneys for the three defendants — Winston-Salem, Forsyth County and the owner of the Winston Courthouse apartments — are citing what they call "crude, insulting and highly inappropriate" language in an email sent by an attorney for the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

The group is trying to have a Confederate statue put back on the corner of the former courthouse square after the city removed the statue March 12, citing public safety concerns arising from protests at the monument.

During negotiations over the appeals process, a court exhibit shows, United Daughters of the Confederacy attorney James A. Davis told attorney Jodi Hildebran in an email that she was "full of it," then told Hildebran that "Basically, you can go rotate on it."

Hildebran attached a copy of the email to the motion she authored asking the Appeals Court to dismiss the UDC appeal. Hildebran represents Winston Courthouse LLC, the owner of the former courthouse. Her motion was submitted on behalf of the apartments' owner, the city of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.

In a footnote to the affidavit she filed with her motion to dismiss, Hildebran called attention to "rotate on it" comment:

"I believe this comment was intended to be highly offensive, and I considered it to be," Hildebran wrote.

In its appeal, the UDC is arguing that Superior Court Judge Eric Morgan erred on May 8, when he dismissed a lawsuit the group had filed to stop the removal of the state and force its return. Morgan said that the organization lacked the legal right to contest the statue's removal because it claimed no ownership of the monument.

The statue's removal came after months of protests by supporters and opponents of the statue that stood on the corner of Liberty and Fourth streets since 1905.

Opponents charged the statue was a reminder of the campaign for white supremacy that deprived black people of the vote during the era in which the statue was erected. Backers of the statue called it a monument to dead soldiers that should remain as their memorial.

Hildebran, the Winston Courthouse attorney who filed a motion Oct. 31 to dismiss the latest United Daughters of the Confederacy claim, maintains that the group's attorneys committed various procedural errors when they filed the appeal and never responded when the mistakes were pointed out, despite efforts by the defense attorneys to provide documents they said were missing and otherwise make corrections to the court record. 

Hildebran said in her motion that the procedural violations by the UDC attorneys "are numerous and egregious" and that efforts by the defense attorney to help attorneys fix the mistakes "were met with disdain and belligerence."

In her motion to dismiss the UDC appeal, Hildebran says that the violations of appeals procedure by the UDC are so substantial that they warrant court-imposed sanctions as well as dismissal of the appeal.

The email Hildebran found insulting, according to a court exhibit made by Hildebran, was sent by Davis on Oct. 19 and addressed to Hildebran, with copies to attorneys including Angela Carmon (attorney for the city), Gordon Watkins (attorney for the county) and others involved in the case. 

In the email, the UDC attorney says that Hildebran can't speak for the other attorneys because she is not the attorney of record for the city nor the county.

"Simply you are full of it," Davis writes. "I will address the record on Monday. Thank you for your cooperation. You should find a basis for your ill conceived position. Basically, you can go rotate on it."

Davis did not respond Thursday to a request for comment on the email.

The back-and-forth emails between Davis and the defendant attorneys was over what is called the record on appeal, a collection of documents the UDC was required to file with the N.C. Court of Appeals, and which included documents from the superior court proceedings last spring.

The UDC attorneys provided the defense attorneys with their first record on appeal on Aug. 23, but the defense said they found all kinds of problems with the record and responded jointly with a list of objections on Sept. 23.

Hildebran said she waited the required 10 days for a response from the UDC and never got one. Then, Davis wrote her an email on Oct. 8 in which he challenged Hildebran's ability to respond for the other attorneys. Davis sent a second record on appeal to all the attorneys on Oct. 14, but they wouldn't sign it, saying the deadline had passed. 

Days later, in response to an email from Hildebran about the passed deadline, Davis sent Hildebran the email with the "full of it" and "rotate on it" remarks.

Carmon, speaking for the city, and Watkins, for the county, have filed affidavits in support of the motion to dismiss the UDC appeal. In those affidavits, the attorneys disagree with Davis' argument that Hildebran was speaking only for one of the three defendants.

Watkins also says in his affidavit that Davis was wrong in saying that he had dealt with all of the defense objections to the record in his second filing. 

The city has kept the statue in storage until the legal challenges are settled. City officials plan to move the statue to Salem Cemetery, where 36 Confederate soldiers were buried.

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wyoung@wsjournal.com

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