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Parties squabbling over discovery in statue case

Alfred Mouton statue damage.PNG
Posted at 11:05 AM, May 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-25 12:05:27-04

Attorneys for Lafayette and the local Daughters of Confederacy are arguing over discovery in the Mouton statue case, and LCG wants the court to order the group to pay the bills for a July hearing on the current dispute.

In a Motion filed more than a month ago, LCG attorneys say that the local Daughters of the Confederacy - the group that paid for the statute of the Civil War soldier to be erected in the 1920s - would not respond to a Request for Admission sent to them by LCG attorneys.

At issue is the statue's ownership. LCG maintains that the group donated the statue to the city, and thus has no say in what happens to the statue now. LCG found minutes from a Daughters meeting held in 1980 in a set of documents donated to the UL library by the group. LCG asked the Daughters to confirm that the minutes are authentic via Request for Admission.

A Request for Admission is a tool that's part of the discovery process to obtain information from an opposing party. Louisiana law sets up the process, and it is not optional. The law sets up the parameters for how the process is to be conducted, and what rights each side has in the process. It is very common for parties to disagree during the discovery process.

LCG's attorneys claim in their April 16 motion that they sent a copy of minutes of the 1980 meeting, and asked for the Daughters of the Confederacy to confirm the document was authentic. The document was obtained from a group of documents that were donated to the UL library by the group, LCG lawyers argue, so there should be no problem for the group to confirm its authenticity.

The group simply denied the Request, without providing any explanation, LCG lawyers allege. That admission will now require LCG to prepare for a hearing to verify its authenticity, and so LCG wants the group to pay for that cost.

LCG and the Daughters are arguing over a court order issued in 1980, which prevented the city and its mayor from moving the Mouton statue from its current home in front of the old City Hall, currently Le Centre.

Mayor Josh Guillory last year said he wanted to remove the statue and place it in a more secure location, to prevent damage to it. And indeed, in January the face of the statue was damaged. A local group, Move the Mindset, has been working as well to get the statue moved, and is involved in the lawsuit.

The statue honors Alfred Mouton, a slave owner and general in the Confederate army. He was an Opelousas native and son of a former Louisiana governor. He died leading Confederate troops in the Battle of Mansfield.

The Mouton statue was one of many such statues erected across the south by various chapters of the Daughters of the Confederacy during the Jim Crow era. Prior to the Jim Crow era, most of the Confederate monuments were dedicated to the men who had died, not the generals or leaders of the confederacy, according to research by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In recent years, many cities, including New Orleans, have removed these statues and placed them in museums or storage.