The Barnes Foundation is nearing completion of its $100 million building on the Parkway in Philadelphia. The building is slated to be finished by the new year, while the galleries are expected to open to the public by next summer.
Now the foundation faces a new court challenge.
The Friends of the Barnes group is attempting to reopen the case against moving the renowned collection of Impressionist paintings from Lower Merion to Center City.
It is doing so via an obscure legal maneuver called “private attorney general,” wherein the actual attorney general is found to be compromised, so a citizen is given standing to argue on behalf of the Commonwealth.
In Montgomery County Orphans Court, attorney Sam Stretton argued Monday that in 2004, then-Attorney General Michael Fischer had a conflict of interest.
“He worked with the Barnes to get changes made–he never revealed that to the court,” said Stretton. “Our position was he had an obligation to do so, if he wasn’t going to do so, he had to tell the court so the court could appoint someone like me to present the opposing viewpoint.”
Seven years ago, Fischer came to the conclusion that moving the Barnes collection was in the best interest of the people of Pennsylvania, and acted accordingly, according to a lawyer representing the office of the state attorney general.
The Friends of the Barnes faces another challenging legal tool: the Doctrine of Finality. Orphans Court Judge Stanley Ott could be reluctant to re-examine a ruling made seven years ago.
“It’s not easier to convince me to revisit the decision as more time passes,” Ott told Stretton.