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Judge Ott Declines to Reopen Barnes Case; Appeal Still Possible

My guess as to how Judge Stanley Ott of Montgomery County Orphans’ Court would rule on the question of whether to reopen the Barnes Foundation case has proven, unfortunately, to be correct.

A bit less expeditiously than he had promised at the Mar. 24 court hearing, Judge Ott yesterday issued his ruling: He stood by his Dec. 13, 2004 decision to allow the Barnes to move from Merion, PA, to Philadelphia, saying that neither the Friends of the Barnes nor Montgomery County had appropriate legal standing to bring a suit requesting that the case be reopened.

In a press release (not online at this writing), Derek Gillman, executive director and president of the Barnes, commented:

This very clear ruling ends the present distraction and we are
forging ahead with plans for the new building.

Carolyn Carluccio, deputy solicitor for Montgomery County, said this to me yesterday afternoon in an e-mail:

We are certainly disappointed. I will be meeting with the Chair of the County Commissioners, Jim Mathews, to determine whether it is in the County’s interest to pursue an appeal.

There is more than a little irony in this part of judge’s ruling:

As the Attorney General and the trustees point out, the County’s “special interests” in protecting historical resources and nurturing economic welfare are matters within the purview of the Attomey General’s office. That Office…protects the general public, and there is no authority for a second sovereign [i.e., Montgomery County] to participate on behalf of a subset of the general public.

The attorney general’s office (as I previously stated in the post linked at the top) did a shockingly inadequate job in protecting the interests of the general public in the Barnes case, as Judge Ott himself scathingly observed in an earlier written opinion. Montgomery County did not seek to discredit the performance of the attorney general’s office when it requested reconsideration of the judge’s decision, because it did not feel it could properly attack another government entity. I’d call this a “Catch 22.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s report, quoting reaction from Friends of the Barnes, is here. The text of Judge Ott’s ruling is here. We can only find it amusing that the judge confides he decided to do a Google search on “The Barnes Foundation,” discovering “about 2,590,000 hits.” If only he had clicked on Result 37—the CultureGrrl post to which I linked to at the top of this one.

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