Education, Higher Ed

Judge approves $82,000 spent from “Silent Sam” settlement trust

An Orange County Superior Court Judge approved more than $82,000 in spending from the $2.5 million awarded to the Sons of Confederate Veterans in an invalidated legal settlement with the UNC System.

Judge Allen Baddour scrapped the controversial settlement in February, finding the Confederate heritage group had no standing to sue for ownership of the “Silent Sam” Confederate monument toppled by protesters in 2018. He ordered the group to return the $2.5 million given to the group in a trust for the care of the statue. Baddour ordered an accounting of any money already spent from the trust.

That accounting found the group spent a significant amount of money — and incurred still more in expenses — before the settlement was successfully challenged. In an order filed Wednesday, Baddour found it will not have to return that money to the university system.

That includes $52,000 the Sons of Confederate Veterans had already spent on attorney’s fees and nearly $30,000 in legal fees, expenses and compensation for the trustee that had already been incurred.

“Needless to say, we are somewhat shocked by this decision,” said Elizabeth Haddix, attorney with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Haddix’s organization represented a group of students and one professor at UNC-Chapel Hill who sought to legally intervene in the case. Though Baddour did not allow them to enter the case, he did allow them to prepare an amicus brief on the question of whether the Sons of Confederate Veterans had standing.

That action led to a movement to overturn the settlement that came to include 88 prominent UNC alumni filing their own amicus brief in the case. Among them were 14 members of the UNC Black Pioneers, a group of students who broke the color barrier at UNC-Chapel Hill between 1952 and 1972.

Haddix said she will be conferring with her clients on Baddour’s decision. They were not immediately available for comment Wednesday.

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