Forrest not out of woods yet

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 30, 2003

A monument to Nathan Bedford Forrest may be sitting another six months at Confederate Circle in Old Live Oak Cemetery.

An order handed down from U.S. Magistrate Judge Kristi Lee on May 29 canceled a scheduled settlement conference for 10 a.m. today because of pending summary judgment motions filed in the case.

According to Selma City Attorney Jimmy Nunn, the settlement conference was a chance for both parties involved in a lawsuit over a monument to Forrest – Friends of Forrest Inc. and the City of Selma – to sit down and work out a resolution.

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“It’s a last resort to try to work things out,” Nunn said.

The order also scheduled jury selection for a trial on the lawsuit – Jan. 12, 2004. A trial is expected to begin sometime that month.

The trial’s original date was July 7, 2003.

A pretrial conference is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Nov. 12 in Mobile.

Valerie Chittom, an attorney representing Selma, said the pretrial conference is a method of streamlining the court process administratively. Attorneys will review information with the court that will be presented at the trial.

The case will go to trial unless a settlement occurs or either side gains a favorable judgment from summary judgment motions filed with the court.

Summary judgment motions filed by the defense – in this case the city of Selma – request the court dismiss the case based on its facts. Motions filed by the prosecution ask for the court to rule favorably for them, claiming they’ve already proved their case.

Lee’s order states, “After the court rules on the pending motions for summary judgment, the parties may contact the undersigned to reschedule a settlement conference if they deem it appropriate.”

Chittom said it was in the best interests of both sides for the settlement conference to be canceled because the summary judgments were still pending.

“Those summary judgment motions should be ruled on prior to a settlement conference,” Chittom said.

Based on the last Friends of Forrest, settlement demand, Chittom noted, it would cost Selma more to settle than go to trial.

Benjamin Austin, a spokesman for the Friends of Forrest, said he would have liked the case to be settled today.

“We’re very disappointed we’re not going to get a chance to settle this,” Austin said. “I see this as a big setback. Not a setback in our case, but a setback in resolving the issue.”

Charles Yow, an attorney representing Friends of Forrest, said he is also interested in seeing the case’s resolution.

“Our bill is going to be substantially more than substantial,” said Yow, who charges a fee of $250 an hour.

Both Austin and Chittom expressed disappointment the case was pushed back to January 2004.

“It’s been pending for two years,” Chittom said. “It’s time to try the case.”

The suit against Selma over the Forrest monument was filed May 17, 2001.