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Controversial statue was improperly removed from Cherokee Triangle, Kentucky Supreme Court rules

The case now goes back to a Jefferson County Circuit Court to start the process all over.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A controversial statue that was removed from Cherokee Triangle is back in the spotlight after a recent ruling by the Kentucky Supreme Court.

John B. Castleman was one of the fathers of the Louisville parks system but also fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. The monument was one of many tossed into a national debate regarding Confederate statues.

Castleman's statue in Cherokee Triangle was removed in June 2020 as protests were underway following the death of Breonna Taylor. 

The city's Landmarks Commission voted to remove the statue and eventually move it to Cave Hill Cemetery, where Castleman is buried.

Now three years later, the state's highest court has given those who oppose the statue's removal a partial victory, ruling the monument was improperly removed.

RELATED: John B. Castleman's story is a 'mixed bag,' historian says 

Despite a lawsuit filed by the Friends of Louisville Public Art, a group against the removal, a Jefferson County Circuit Court ruled in the city's favor in 2021.

Chief Justice Laurance Vanmeter has reversed the lower court's decision saying two members of the Landmark Commission had a direct conflict of interest as they had been hired by former Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer.

"If this was a normal jury case, let's say a big business and they had jurors on the jury that work for that big business, that's a conflict of interest," Attorney Steve Wiser said. "That's the thing that we argued all along that there was a major conflict of interest with the mayor's staff voting on this removal."

For now, the statue remains covered in a Metro lot at Lexington and Payne.

The case itself goes back to a Jefferson County Circuit Court to start the process all over. Wiser said his group will be meeting to decide their next move.

In a statement, Fischer said he stands by his decision to remove the statue.

"If a statue is not welcome in every neighborhood of our city, it should not be in any neighborhood," he said.

Current Mayor Craig Greenberg has office has responded saying: 

'Louisville Metro Government has no plans to place the Castleman statue back in its original location nor any interest in doing so. We are exploring our options on what to do with the statue and will keep the community informed as we move forward.'

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