Jefferson County Circuit Judge Michael Graffeo issued an order Monday rendering the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act of 2017 void.
Graffeo determined that the Memorial Preservation Act was unconstitutional in his resolution of Alabama v. Birmingham, a case that arose in August 2017 when Birmingham city officials requested the removal of the Confederate Soldiers & Sailors Monument from Linn Park. Then-mayor William Bell responded by covering the monument, an obelisk erected in 1905, with plywood. Shortly thereafter, the Alabama Attorney General sued the city of Birmingham, requesting that the court declare that Birmingham had violated the Memorial Preservation Act and charge the city $25,000 for each day the monument was covered.
Graffeo granted summary judgement to Birmingham and ruled that the Memorial Preservation Act, which prohibits the “relocation, removal, alteration, renaming, or other disturbance of any architecturally significant building … or monument located on public property … which has been in place for 40 or more years,” violated the right that individual municipalities have to free speech under the US Constitution. Graffeo noted,”[i]t is undisputed that an overwhelming majority of the body politic of [Birmingham] is repulsed by the Monument. … A city has a right to speak for itself, to say what it wishes, and to select the views that it wants to express.”
Graffeo also found the Memorial Preservation Act to be unconstitutional on due process grounds because it dictates what an individual municipality may or may not do with its property: “The absence under the [Memorial Preservation Act] of an opportunity to be heard at all, much less at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner, violates the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Attorney General Steve Marshall has indicated his office intends to appeal Graffeo’s decision.