A court hearing on the possible removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Alfred Mouton from city property was delayed Monday for a sixth time, this time because the attorney for the United Daughters of the Confederacy was a no-show.
A group of residents, Move the Mindset, filed a legal intervention in 2019 into a 1980 injunction that prohibits the city from removing the statue from city property on Jefferson Street and Lee Avenue. The group wants the statue, maintained by city tax dollars, removed.
"The statue remaining where it is is an insult to the dignity and respect of all people in this community," Fred Prejean, Move the Mindset president, said Monday. "There is nothing Alfred Mouton did to warrant his statue being in the honorable place it is now."
The city of Lafayette joined in the movement to remove the statue, which was erected and donated to the city in 1922 by the United Daughters' Alfred Mouton chapter during the Jim Crow era of Black suppression.
The city and United Daughters in 1980 made an agreement that the city would not remove the Mouton statue unless necessary to do road work. Current City-Parish Attorney Greg Logan said Monday the agreement amounted to the illegal donation of public property to the United Daughters which is a violation of the Louisiana Constitution.
Attorney Jerome Moroux for Move the Mindset called the 1980 agreement a back room deal.
Attorney J. Michael Wooderson for the United Daughters was not present at Monday's hearing. He filed a motion to continue the hearing, writing that he underwent heart surgery Feb. 1 and is unable to return to work for several months. A January hearing was delayed because Wooderson indicated he had surgery scheduled.
Hearings on the matter previously were delayed due to other illnesses, hurricanes and the pandemic.
Moroux and the city's attorneys objected to continuing the hearing again. Wooderson filed for a continuance by facsimile but did not properly follow-up with a hard copy filing until Thursday, which was too late, Moroux said, and did not provide him with a copy. Monday's court date was agreed to by all parties in December, he said.
Wooderson's behavior is disrespectful to the court, Assistant City-Parish Attorney Larry Marino said. All other parties were prepared and in attendance, which cost their clients, he said.
Judge David Smith wasn't happy about another delay, but granted the continuance because the appeal court probably would send it back to him if he proceeded with one of the parties not represented by an attorney.
Smith agreed to consider a special court date instead of delayed the case until his next regular docket date in about three months.
"The UDC's strategy is to delay this as long as possible," Prejean said Monday. "We could have had the January hearing."
Moroux, who said Wooderson does not respond to calls or emails from him, said after the hearing Wooderson did not follow simple rules of procedure that all attorneys follow.