By The Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A Virginia judge has recused himself from participating in a lawsuit filed by six Richmond residents opposed to Gov. Ralph Northam’s order to take down a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that has become the focal point of protests over police brutality and racism.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Richmond Circuit Court Judge Bradley Cavedo will remain the presiding judge in a separate challenge of Northam’s order filed by a descendant of the family that deeded the property for the monument to the state 130 years ago. In that first lawsuit, Cavedo has blocked the removal of the statue through an injunction that he extended indefinitely to allow the plaintiff, William Gregory, to revise his legal challenge.

In this Tuesday June 23, 2020, file photo protesters gather near the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va. Just a little over a month ago, the area around Richmond’s iconic statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was as quiet and sedate as the statue itself. But since the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the area has been transformed into a bustling hub of activity for demonstrators protesting against police brutality and racism. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, FILE)

In an order issued Wednesday, Cavedo said he is disqualifying himself from ruling on a proposed consolidation of the Gregory case and a second lawsuit, which was filed by six residents who live in the Monument Avenue Historic District. 

In that lawsuit, which is being heard by a different judge, residents in the historic district say removing the Lee monument would have an adverse impact, including “the loss of favorable tax treatment and reduction in property values.”

Cavedo did not say why he was recusing himself, but said he believes he is “so situated” in respect to the historic district case “as to render it improper for me to preside.” Cavedo lives within the historic district.

Attorney General Mark Herring is fighting both lawsuits in court. His spokesman, Michael Kelly, said Herring “remains committed to ensuring the removal of this divisive and antiquated relic as soon as possible.”

Since the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the Lee statue has become the epicenter of the protest movement in Richmond.

On Wednesday, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney ordered the removal of all city-owned Confederate monuments. Since then, crews have removed a statue of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson and naval officer Matthew Fontaine Maury, along with two cannons. The Lee statue is on state land.