Art Law Report

Corcoran Trustees Respond to “Save the Corcoran” Motion to Intervene, Argue That Challengers Lack Distinct Interest

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on July 15, 2014 at 7:43 AM

The trustees of the Corcoran Gallery and the Corcoran College of Art +Design have responded to the recent motion by a group of students, faculty, staff, and interested supporters have filed a motion to intervene in the Corcoran’s cy prés petition to merge with the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University. The proposed interveners, led by a group called “Save the Corcoran,” argues that the modification is unjustified and fails to take alternatives into account. More seriously, the motion to intervene accuses the trustees of “peculiar and egregious mismanagement.” We reviewed the motion when it was filed. While it goes over the case against merger, the challenge they face is demonstrating a specific and particular interest not already represented by a party to the case. One never knows, but that seemed unlikely to us. Even if unsuccessful, however, the motion lays out a passionate case against the merger that will be in the record one way or another.

Now the trustees of the Corcoran have responded to the motion to intervene. Not surprisingly, the response focuses on the question of discrete injury or position According to the Washington Post, the trustees’ response includes the following passage:

At bottom, the unhappiness that [the critics] voice in their papers is no basis on which to grant them standing or the relief they request,” the Corcoran lawyers said. “Whatever the depth of their emotional response, it is no substitute for an actual, substantive interest ... Nor does it create a factual basis for allegations of mismanagement or the standing to bring those issues to the court.

Interestingly, we wondered what the position of the attorney general on the underlying cy prés would be. In the District of Columbia, District Attorney General Irvin Nathan is responsible for charitable oversight. He has not spoken on the issue yet so far as we know, but he is a party to the case, a fact that the trustees can be expected to cite heavily in arguing against allowing intervention.

Even if intervention is denied, of course, that will be just the beginning of whether the merger is necessary to fulfill the Corcoran’s charter “as nearly as possible.”

A hearing on the motion to intervene is scheduled for Friday afternoon, July 18, 2014.

Topics: Deaccession, National Gallery of Art, Save the Corcoran, George Washington University, Cy Pres, Corcoran College of Art + Design, District Attorney General Irvin Nathan, Trusts, Washington Post, Corcoran Gallery, District of Columbia, Museums

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About the Blog


The Art Law Report provides timely updates and commentary on legal issues in the museum and visual arts communities. It is authored by Nicholas M. O'Donnell, partner in our Art & Museum Law Practice.

The material on this site is for general information only and is not legal advice. No liability is accepted for any loss or damage which may result from reliance on it. Always consult a qualified lawyer about a specific legal problem.

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