In the ongoing suit over what will happen to the Alfred Mouton statute in downtown Lafayette, the city has come up with a new strategy.
City attorneys have asked the court to dismiss the action of the United Daughters of the Confederacy because the local chapter "no longer exists" as an entity that can participate in a legal action. The pleadings filed last week allege that the only person involved is Jessica McChesney, who was a member of the chapter when it did exist, and that the chapter name is being used as a "veil" for her.
At issue is whether or not the city can move the Jim Crow-era statue from its current position at the corner of Lee and Jefferson streets, in front of the old City Hall. Mayor Josh Guillory has said he believes the statue should be moved to a museum or other facility in order to preserve it; and indeed earlier this year someone broke the nose off the statue's face.
The statue - like almost all those featuring Confederate notables across the south - was erected during the Jim Crow era by the local chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy. When there was an effort to move the statue decades ago, the local UDC chapter requested and obtained an injunction from a local judge which stated it could not be moved without their permission - despite the fact that the property on which it stands was and continues to be public property.
The current discussion started more than five years ago, but in 2019 it resumed in court, after a local group, Move the Mindset, filed suit asking the court to find the injunction invalid. Since then the city and the group have been entangled in a court case with the UDC to dissolve that injunction so the statue can be moved. This new pleading requests that the injunction be dissolved because the local UDC chapter doesn't exist, and there's no legal mechanism for a former member to claim that she can continue the fight.
At issue, the city alleges, is whether the local chapter of the UDC still exists as a "juridical" person or entity. In Louisiana, "if a group exists without any organization or legal power, it would not qualify as a juridical person and would not be capable of making or receiving a donation," according to a 2018 article in the Loyola Law Review.
It has always been the position of Move the Mindset that the injunction was improper, should not have been granted, and that the UDC has no interest or standing to determine what happens on any piece of public property.
We reached out to the UDC chapter's attorney for a response, and will update this story if we receive one.