Extensive and lengthy cross-examinations were heard in Charlottesville Circuit Court on Thursday as lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the city to prevent it from removing statues of two Confederate generals broke down why they believe the city owes over $604,000 in attorney fees and litigation costs.
The lawsuit was filed by the Monument Fund, Sons of Confederate Veterans, and 11 individual plaintiffs two-and-a-half years ago, after City Council in 2017 voted to remove statues of Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.
A day after ruling against the city’s interpretation of the equal protection clause in the Fourteenth Amendment and issuing a permanent injunction that stipulates Charlottesville cannot remove the Confederate statues, Judge Richard Moore heard the testimony of two witnesses for the plaintiffs about attorney fees.
Jock Yellott is the executive director of the Monument Fund and has performed the roles of both a plaintiff and paralegal in this case. He submitted to the court a detailed packet that outlined all the legal costs accrued by the plaintiffs and explained how they settled on $604,000.
The Monument Fund and Sons of Confederate Veterans have already paid a combined $87,500 to their attorneys, so they’re seeking reimbursement of those payments, with the remaining $516,500 going directly to the lawyers.
Yellott was cross-examined by Chief Deputy City Attorney Lisa Robertson, who spent several hours going over the bill line by line and asking Yellott to verify specific tasks he fulfilled, ranging from case research to collating papers.
Moore stopped Robertson midway through her questioning to inquire about the significance of her thorough review of the information. She insisted that it was her right to do so and the information she was focused on would be referred to in her closing arguments.
After Yellott finally stepped down from the stand and court took a break for lunch, Moore heard the testimony of Charles Lollar, a Norfolk attorney who was presented as an expert witness on legal fees. Lollar told the court he found the rates charged by the plaintiffs’ attorneys to be “necessary and appropriate” for the amount of work required for this case. For his testimony, Lollar billed the plaintiffs $12,000—a figure included in their request for the $604,000.
“Without these services…those monuments wouldn’t be there,” Lollard said.
Some of the other contributors to that total include the bills of Braxton Puryear and Ralph Main, the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, who charged $300 and $310 per hour, respectively, for their services. University of Richmond law professor Kevin Walsh, who specializes in constitutional law and assisted earlier in the case, charged $700 an hour. Yellott also requested $160 an hour for the work he did as a paralegal.
The 10 individual plaintiffs—one died last year—are also seeking $500 each in compensatory damages. Eight of them testified Wednesday about the emotional distress caused by their inability to see the statues for the 188-day period they were covered in tarps at the direction of the city.
Moore is expected to hear final arguments Friday before making a decision on the amount owed in damages and attorney fees.