Patterson Harkavy files amicus brief urging judge to void UNC's agreement to pay $2.5 million to Confederate organization

On Wednesday, Patterson Harkavy attorney Burton Craige submitted an amicus brief in Orange County Superior Court, urging Judge Allen Baddour to set aside the Consent Judgment under which UNC would pay the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) $2.5 million to take possession of the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam.

The motion filed with the brief describes why these alumni feel compelled to speak now:

Amici are UNC alumni who love and respect the University; many make voluntary contributions to support it. They believe that the University’s payment of $2.5 million to SCV to receive and maintain the Confederate monument that stood on the Chapel Hill campus is a misuse of University funds. In their view, the Consent Judgment seriously damages the reputation of the University, which should be committed to historical truth and opposed to modern-day white supremacy.

Fourteen of the amici are UNC Black Pioneers, an association of black students who had the courage to break the color barrier at UNC-Chapel Hill between 1952 and 1972. These trailblazers went on to have distinguished careers in business, law, medicine, politics, and education.

The other 74 amici span seven decades of history on the Chapel Hill campus, from Sam Poole (Class of 1956), former Chair of the UNC Board of Governors, to Clay Hackney (Class of 2015), a Morehead-Cain Scholar who is now a student at Harvard Law School.

The amici include an array of leaders of the legal profession, including James Exum, former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, Robert Orr, former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, former dean of UNC Law School Jack Boger, former United States Solicitor General Walter Dellinger, former United States Congressman Mel Watt, former President of the State Bar Bonnie Weyher, former Chair of the Indigent Defense Services Commission Joe Cheshire, and four retired superior court judges (Karl Adkins, Howard Manning, Jr., Pat Morgan, and Don Stephens).

The amici also include Chapel Hill alumni who are nationally renowned for excellence in their fields, such as Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Taylor Branch, fashion designer Alexander Julian, and Hall of Fame soccer star Carla Overbeck.

The brief thoroughly reviews the historical evidence about the initial funding for Silent Sam and SCV’s claim that it acquired ownership of the statue from the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). A detailed affidavit from Cecelia Moore, the recently retired UNC historian, decisively establishes that Silent Sam was always owned by the University, and neither UDC nor SCV has ever had any ownership interest. Because it had no ownership interest, SCV had no standing to bring suit against the University. And because SCV had no standing, the trial judge had no jurisdiction to enter the Consent Judgment.

When Judge Baddour considered the Consent Judgment that UNC and SCV presented to him on November 27, he did not have the benefit of a complete and accurate factual record. After students and faculty questioned whether SCV had standing to bring its suit against UNC, he appropriately scheduled a hearing on that issue on February 12. The brief submitted by these amici provides Judge Baddour with the facts needed to make a fully informed decision.

Patterson Harkavy attorney Burton Craige submitted the brief along with attorney William Taylor from Zuckerman Spaeder in Washington, D.C. Both Craige and Taylor are UNC graduates. The brief has received extensive media coverage, including articles in the News and Observer and NC Policy Watch.