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Bochetto notches victory in Pittsburgh Columbus statue case


The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court on April 19 overturned the dismissal of a lawsuit that was filed to block the planned removal of Pittsburgh’s Columbus statue.

George Bochetto fought the case on behalf of Italian Sons and daughters of America.

Philadelphia litigator George Bochetto, who was profiled in December 2020 in the Italian-American Herald, filed the lawsuit, and subsequent appeal, on behalf of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America.

The Commonwealth Court wrote in a 24-page opinion that a lower court “erred” in its dismissal of the case in 2022. The judges ruled 7-0 to send the lawsuit back to lower court for reexamination, stating that City Hall does not have “free reign to act as it pleases in defiance of the law.”

“I am delighted the Commonwealth Court agreed that the dismissal of this lawsuit by the lower court was plain error and that, while the mayor of Pittsburgh has certain First Amendment rights, he does not have free reign to violate the law,” said Bochetto. “I am also hopeful that the new mayor will sit down with me to reach a resolution without further costly litigation and a waste of taxpayers’ money.”

The reinstated case will now go back before Judge John T. McVay, Jr. of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas “for further factfinding and decision,” per the opinion.

In December 2022, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court — in a separate lawsuit — sided with Bochetto when it blocked Philadelphia’s former mayor from uprooting the city’s 148-year-old Columbus statue from a public plaza. The outcome of that case weighed heavily in the Pittsburgh ruling.

“Cities have been making a mad rush to rip [Columbus statues] down,” Bochetto told the IAH in 2020. “But there are processes and procedures, and Constitutional protections they’re violating.”

If the cities want to remove the statues, they have to do it properly, Bochetto said. That might include returning a statue to its sponsoring Italian heritage organization, and even paying damages

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