Talbot Officials Ask Court to Dismiss Lawsuit Seeking Removal of Confederate Monument

Residents left signs protesting the continued presence of the Talbot Boys monument in November 2020. Photo by Bennett Leckrone.

Talbot County officials want a lawsuit seeking removal of the Confederate Talbot Boys monument from the county courthouse grounds dismissed, according to Wednesday court filings.

The Maryland Office of the Public Defender and the Talbot County NAACP filed a lawsuit in May seeking the removal of the Confederate Talbot Boys monument from the grounds of the Talbot County courthouse lawn in Easton. Plaintiffs and advocates argue that the Jim Crow-era statue’s presence is racist and unconstitutional.

“The Talbot Boys statue says just this: ‘In this building, white people are given priority over Black people;’ and ‘Justice for Black people means something different than what Justice means for white people means.’ To view it differently is to ignore objective fact,” the lawsuit reads.

The plaintiffs say the presence of the monument on the courthouse lawn violates the U.S. Constitution’s 14th amendment, which guarantees due process and equal protection of laws. The lawsuit charges that the Talbot Boys location is “facially discriminatory.”

Kisha Petticolas, an assistant public defender in Talbot County and one of the plaintiffs in the case, said in May that she has to walk past the statue daily for her work. Petticolas, who is Black, described the monument as a painful reminder to her and her clients of “hate, oppression and white supremacy.”

But in a Wednesday motion to dismiss the case and an memorandum supporting that motion, attorneys for the county argue that the plaintiffs “have failed to state any claim upon which relief may be granted.”

“The Complaint alleges no specific example where any client of either Ms. Petticolas or the OPD was deprived of due process or equal protection due to the presence of the Talbot Boys statue on the Courthouse lawn,” the memorandum reads.

Attorneys for the county argue that the plaintiffs haven’t done enough to prove that the statue’s presence is discriminatory. The memorandum charges that plaintiffs “failed to identify any occasion that, because of the mere presence of the Talbot Boys statue, any Plaintiff or other member of the public was denied access to the Circuit Court or prevented in any way from petitioning the County for redress.”

County officials further argue that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction in the case.

“The law governing this Complaint establishes Plaintiffs lack standing to bring any of the claims asserted,” the memorandum in support of the county’s motion to dismiss reads. “And, even if standing were not an issue, Plaintiffs have failed to state any claim upon which relief may be granted. For these reasons, the Complaint should be dismissed in its entirety.”

In a Thursday statement, the plaintiffs slammed Talbot County’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit and urged officials to “finally reject the last Confederate monument on public land in Maryland.”

“It is indefensible how the three members of the Talbot County Council who hold controlling votes continue to dishonor the lives, struggle, and right to equality under the law of Black residents of their own county,” the plaintiffs’ statement reads. “By deciding to keep defending the Confederate monument on the county’s courthouse lawn and trying to dodge their responsibility to represent everyone in Talbot County, they dishonor both the promise of the Constitution and their own role as elected officials.”

Advocates have been lobbying for removal of the Talbot Boys statue from the courthouse lawn in Easton for years. Talbot County Council members rejected a proposal to move the statue last year, although rallies to remove the monument have continued.

Read the full complaint here: 

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Bennett Leckrone
Leckrone is a December 2019 graduate of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. He has interned at The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Columbus Dispatch, PennLive.com, The Dayton Daily News and The Troy Daily News. Leckrone is a Report for America corps member.