Scene from the Philly Barnes construction webcam
Arguments in Montgomery County Orphans’ Court, Norristown, PA, have just concluded in the attempt by opponents of the Barnes Foundation’s move to Philadelphia to convince Judge Stanley Ott to agree to a reconsideration of his decision permitting the foundation to relocate. That decision allowed the Barnes to deviate from written stipulations by founder Albert Barnes that his collection always be shown just as he left it, in the facility he built for it in Merion, PA.
Samuel Stretton, lawyer for the opponents to the move, told me today after the hour-and-a-half proceedings that Ott’s decision on whether to reopen the case would probably occur in 20 to 30 days. If the judge rules against him, Stretton said, his clients will likely appeal to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.
Stretton conceded that Judge Ott, in comments in court today, showed that he was “concerned about the concept of finality”: The case was initially decided by Ott in 2004; he stood by his decision in 2008.
Having sat in Ott’s Norristown courtroom for some of the oral arguments in the initial Barnes proceedings, I completely agree with the Stretton’s position that the Attorney General had failed to properly perform his duty to vigorously represent the interests of the public and of the deceased donor, when the Barnes Foundation sought the necessary court approval to overturn the trust indenture. Even Judge Ott, in a previous ruling (quoted by me at the post linked in this paragraph), had agreed that “the course of action chosen by the Office of the Attorney General
prevented the court from seeing a balanced, objective presentation of
the situation, and constituted an abdication of that office’s
But (as I previously commented here), while the arguments raised by the petitioners might be cause for an
investigation of the former AG’s divided loyalties and possible
misdeeds, I suspect that, at this late hour, when construction is almost completed on the portion of the Philly Barnes that is intended to house the founder’s collection, it’s too late to stand in the way of something that’s nearly a fait accompli.
I hope Sam proves me wrong.