LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Kentucky Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments on whether the city of Louisville improperly removed the controversial John B. Castleman statue from Cherokee Triangle in 2020.

An order released Thursday said that justices would review a lawsuit filed by a group called Friends of Louisville Public Art against Metro Government that claimed the city improperly moved the statue of the Confederate soldier.

"If we win, they might have to put it back," said attorney Steve Porter, who represents Friends of Louisville Public Art.

Jessica Wethington, a spokeswoman for Mayor Greg Fischer, referred any comment on the ruling to the Jefferson County Attorney's office. 

A spokeswoman for the county attorney's office said "we are reviewing all options available to Louisville Metro Government."

Previously, the city has said Fischer was "disappointed to see the process slowed by appeal" but was confident moving the statue was the right decision.

The statue is currently in a city storage facility.  

The monument in the Highlands was the center of controversy for years because its critics argue that Castleman is closely associated with the Confederacy and white supremacy. The statue, which was erected in 1913, was vandalized numerous times.

In its lawsuit, the group argued, in part, that two commissioners on the Historic Landmarks Commission, which voted to remove the statue, had a conflict of interest as they were hired by Fischer.

Fischer has said the statue of Castleman riding a horse, dressed in civilian clothes served as a symbol of "racist or bigoted ideology."

But the group fighting to save the statue argued that Castleman redeemed himself later in his life, renouncing the confederate cause, calling on white soldiers to salute black officers in World War I and helping to establish Louisville’s park system.

The high court’s order to hear arguments comes after the state Court of Appeals upheld a Jefferson Circuit Court judge’s ruling dismissing the lawsuit.

In December, the appeals court ruled, in part, there were "no facts to support the conflict of interest claim." 

The decision by the high court to take another look at the case is "a big victory," Porter said.

There was no written ruling explaining the Supreme Court’s reasoning to hear the case. Both sides will have 60 days to file briefs to the court before presenting oral arguments.

Fischer announced the removal of the Castleman and George Prentice statues in 2018, saying they served as racist symbols. The Prentice statue was removed from its spot in front of the downtown library in December 2018.

On May 9, 2019, Louisville's Landmark Commission voted to remove the Castleman statue.

The Landmark Commission's vote followed a January 2019 vote by the Cherokee Triangle Review Commission that ended in a tie, meaning the statue could not be removed.

That's when the city appealed to the Landmarks Commission, which gave the green light for the statue's removal.

Porter has said the commission's decision to remove the statue from the park Castleman helped create was "arbitrary and erroneous" and cited several "flaws" in the process.

The lawsuit claims officers and employees who voted during the process should have recused themselves and that recommendations from the Public Art and Monuments Advisory Committee were not considered by the Landmarks Commission.

According to the suit, the statue was referred to as a "landmark" in a Louisville Metro publication and has been considered an icon in the neighborhood for more than a century.

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