ABA Midyear Meeting

ABA urges removal of Confederate monuments from courthouse grounds

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Confederate monument

A Confederate statue at Leflore County Courthouse in Mississippi. (AP Photo / Rogelio V. Solis, File)

Confederate “racial and ethnic bias symbols” should be removed from facilities where court proceedings are held, according to a resolution passed by the ABA House of Delegates.

Resolution 402 was submitted by the Virgin Islands Bar Association and heard by the House during the 2023 ABA Midyear Meeting in New Orleans.

A report accompanying the resolution notes that ABA Goal III is to eliminate bias and enhance diversity in the profession.

Shari D’Andrade, a delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands, spoke in favor of the resolution.

“To all, especially those who look like me, these are a reminder of injustice and hatred,” said D’Andrade, who is Black.

A Giles County, Tennessee, courthouse is cited as an example in the resolution report. Juries there deliberate in what the report refers to as a “Confederate jury room.”

Room decorations include a Confederate flag, portraits of Confederate leaders and United Daughters of the Confederacy symbols, the report states.

The jury for Tim Gilbert, a Tennessee criminal defendant convicted of aggravated assault, deliberated in the Confederate jury room. The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals granted him a new trial in 2021, finding the jury was exposed to improper outside influence and that the state did not sufficiently rebut the presumption of prejudice. A different panel of the same court recently rejected the idea the jury room was prejudicial.

Individual judges and court systems have been increasingly acting to remove Confederate memorabilia and portraits of judges with racist legacies from courthouse grounds. (See “Reframing History,” page 16, August-September 2021.)

“As the voice of the legal profession in the United States, the ABA is uniquely situated to recognize the adverse impact on the administration of justice that stems from the presence of Confederate memorabilia and other symbols of racial and ethnic bias in the interior and exterior of courthouses, and to advocate for their removal,” the report states.

No one rose to speak in opposition to the measure.

This story was originally published in the April-May 2023 issue of the ABA Journal under the headline: “‘Reminder of Injustice’: ABA urges removal of Confederate monuments from courthouse grounds.”

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