Thursday, February 17, 2011

No Standing

Citing "important new evidence," opponents of the Barnes move have filed a petition to reopen the case. What's the new evidence? Statements made in "a recent documentary movie entitled The Art of the Steal." I kid you not.

Statements made by the then-Attorney General in the documentary show that he "forfeited his neutrality" and was "an active participant," a "co-conspirator" in the move. Statements made by the then-Governor "are totally inaccurate": "it is now known" that $107 million in public monies "were being set aside by the former Governor of Pennsylvania to facilitate the transfer." The court "was grossly misled during these proceedings that the Barnes Foundation was fiscally unable to maintain its Lower Merion address when, in fact, the Governor had already set aside substantial funds of public monies to support the transfer of the collection to Philadelphia." The "same funds could have been used to maintain the Barnes Foundation at its current location." The court was thus "misled."

Really. That's the whole argument: "The major reason to reopen this matter is the fact that this Court was misled as to the role of the Attorney General and misled as tot eh availability of public funds" (typos in the original).

But here's the thing: the Friends of the Barnes petitioned to reopen the case once before, in 2007, relying explicitly on the hundred million dollar line item in the budget. There is nothing new about that issue. In 2008, Judge Ott dismissed the previous petition on standing grounds: he said "the Friends have no standing because they have no interest beyond that of the general public." "It is clear," he concluded, "that the Friends lack standing in this matter" (emphasis added).

Given that, it's incredible that the Friends would try again like this. Last time, Judge Ott decided not to grant the Foundation's request for attorney's fees. He said, "in this instance, we believe the petitioners filings were made in good faith, and the events that precipitated the filings (the state budget appropriations' coming to light and the County's offer to explore the purchase/lease-back arrangement) were of sufficient import that the attempt to reopen the issues was not arbitrary." As a result, "the petitioners' conduct did not meet the legal definition of 'vexatious.'"

It wouldn't surprise me at all if he finds that this time it does, and orders the Friends (and other petitioners) to pay the Foundation's legal fees defending the motion.

The petition is here. The Philadelphia Inquirer runs an AP story here.