POST BY PADDY JOHNSON
Student protests over Brandeis University’s January email stating they would close The Rose Museum and sell its collection to bridge their budget shortfall.
Remember way back in July when Culturegrrl told us the Rose Museum’s suit intended to prevent Brandeis University from selling its art, and keep the Rose a fully functioning museum? At the time she speculated that the University could claim that the overseers only had standing to govern the sale of art acquired with the original funds donated by the founders — not anything further. That’s basically what they claimed Tuesday. We wrote up the claim that day, but The Art Law Blog’s Donn Zaretsky offers a deeper perspective on the legal arguments. We’re hoping the overseers case is stronger than it looks.
Today, the Brandeis Justice‘s Alana Abramson reports that Brandeis has moved to dismiss on precisely those grounds. I had a chance to look at the motion papers, and the argument is very straightforward. “Time and again, Massachusetts courts and the Legislature have rejected the notion that donors or their heirs have standing … to enforce their vision of how a charitable organization should operate. The authority to supervise charities in this way is reserved exclusively to the Attorney General.” The plaintiffs here have “no standing to represent the public interest” or “the presumed wishes of other donors.” At most, if they have any standing at all, “it is limited to contract-like claims with respect to their individual gifts” (p. 8).
Expanding a bit on the latter point, the university says that “donors may have rights … to seek a return of their gifts, but this right is quite different from the power reserved to the Attorney General. A donor’s reversionary right to his gift exists, if at all, for his particular gift. It does not entitle the donor to insert himself into the governance of the charity” (p. 11).
To read his full thoughts click here.
See also: The Brandeis Hoot.