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Museum files legal request seeking Superior Court trial to end delays that threaten museum's future
Berkshire Museum Facade. Courtesy the Berkshire Museum.

PITTSFIELD, MASS.- The Berkshire Museum is taking legal action today to end delays now blocking a trial that would allow a Superior Court judge to examine and resolve issues surrounding the proposed sale of artwork needed to secure the museum’s financial future.

Lawyers for the museum are requesting that the Massachusetts Appeals Court lift a stay that has stopped all legal action in the case. Attorney General Maura Healey had previously requested an injunction to stop the sale only. The museum’s filing does not challenge the injunction stopping the sale, only the stay on legal action so that these issues can be resolved in a trial.

In an Emergency Motion filed today to lift the stay and allow legal action to proceed, lawyers for the museum write: The Attorney General “...had not asked for such an extraordinary measure, much less cited any authority that would allow the Single Justice [of the Appeals Court] to issue it...”

“No party to the case had sought such a stay when the Single Justice issued it; no statute or rule authorized the Single Justice to impose a stay; and every day the stay order remains in place causes harm to the Museum, which is being deprived of its right to prompt adjudication of the claims the AGO [Attorney General’s Office] has brought against it. This delay comes at a severe cost: the Museum’s precarious financial position must be addressed immediately, and resolution of the AGO’s now-stayed claims is the only impediment to the implementation of a carefully-considered plan that would provide the Museum with an urgently-needed infusion of funds.”

The legal motion also notes the decision of Superior Court Judge John A. Agostini to allow the sale to proceed:

“On November 7, the Superior Court denied the AGO’s motion, finding that the AGO’s four-month “investigation has uncovered no evidence of bad faith, no conflict of interest, no breach of loyalty, no express gift restrictions, and yielded unconvincing evidence of implied gift restrictions or a breach of reasonable care during a two-year decision-making process.”

The motion also notes the responsiveness of the museum to the Attorney General’s requests for information, even though those requests exceed the scope of the Attorney General’s authority.

“The AGO has submitted to the Museum further requests that have increased in burden and decreased in relevance,” the motion states, noting “...the AGO requested fourteen categories of documents, including “[a]ll documents related to any deaccessioning of art undertaken by the Berkshire Museum” in its 114-year history, and biographical information about every individual who has served on the Museum’s 22-member Board since 2010. The Museum has devoted enormous time and energy to facilitating the swift completion of the AGO’s review...”

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