Friends of Forrest appeal dismissed

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 21, 2003

It appears a monument to Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest isn’t going anywhere.

The monument, which has been at the center of a lawsuit for more than two years, has been sitting in Confederate Circle at Old Live Oak Cemetery since being moved there by a vote of the Selma City Council Feb. 26, 2001. It originally rested at the Vaughan-Smitherman Museum.

A recent ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, though, could cause the monument to grow roots.

At a press conference Monday afternoon, City Attorney Jimmy Nunn said that the appeals court recently notified the City of Selma that an appeal filed by the Friends of Forrest had been dismissed due to want of prosecution.

U.S. Senior District Judge Brevard Hand dismissed one federal claim and three state claims against the city on Aug. 7.

The federal claim dealt with allegations that Selma discriminated against the Friends of Forrest, the organization that had the monument installed at the Vaughan-Smitherman Museum, and failed to prosecute alleged monument vandals.

That federal claim was dismissed last Thursday by the appeals court.

According to Bill Gamble, attorney with Gamble Gamble Calame LLC, the law firm handling Selma’s defense, the case was dismissed because the Friends of Forrest didn’t file an &uot;appeal statement,&uot; which is a statement about the basis of the appeal.

Gamble said the Friends of Forrest filed a notice of appeal with the appeals court following Hand’s ruling. After filing a notice of appeal, it had 10 days to file the appeal statement.

When the appeal statement wasn’t received by Oct. 2, the Friends of Forrest were given an additional 14 days by the court to file one, but noted that if one wasn’t received, the case would be dismissed.

When the appeal statement wasn’t received by Oct. 16, the court dismissed the appeal.

Gamble said the Friends of Forrest no longer had the legal option to advance the case to the U.S. Supreme Court since it had been dismissed. In order to continue pursuing the case, it would have to be reinstated by the appeals court.

According to Benjamin Austin, spokesman for the Friends of Forrest, it was the group’s desire that the case end, and it chose not to file the appeal statement.

He emphasized that the case wasn’t dismissed because of its merits, but because the Friends of Forrest chose not to pursue it.

Austin said he hoped the matter would be put to rest and go away. The Friends of Forrest’s intentions were to put a historical monument in a relevant site, have a ceremony and go home, Austin said, and not to defend its actions three years after the fact.