SJC sets Tuesday hearing on Berkshire Museum art sale


PITTSFIELD — For only the second time, the issue of Berkshire Museum art sales will go before a judge.

Justice David A. Lowy of the Supreme Judicial Court of Suffolk County is calling parties to a hearing Tuesday at noon in the historic John Adams Courthouse in downtown Boston.

A notice posted late Wednesday to the case docket summons attorneys for the museum and the Attorney General's Office to the session. The hearing will be open to the public.

In early February, the Pittsfield museum won the support of Attorney General Maura Healey to petition the court for permission to allow it to sell up to $55 million worth of works from its collection.

Attorneys working with people opposed to the sales will also address Lowy.

Michael B. Keating, a Boston attorney who represents a group of Berkshire County residents, said Thursday he believes he will be given 10 minutes at the start of the hearing to speak to the court.

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Keating, a Foley Hoag partner, filed one of two "friend of the court" briefs opposing the art sale, which had been the subject of litigation since late October.

Attorney Nicholas M. O'Donnell, who also filed a so-called amicus brief, will have 10 minutes to speak on behalf of his clients — three Lenox residents opposed to the art sale.

In addition to Keating and O'Donnell, Lowy will hear from counsel for the museum and Healey's office.

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O'Donnell said Thursday it is his understanding that representatives of the museum's legal team, from WilmerHale in Boston, will also have 10 minutes to speak, as will an attorney acting on behalf of Healey.

The hearing will be before Lowy in his role as a "single justice," a duty that rotates among members of the state's highest court on a monthly basis.

Lowy took the case because he was serving as single justice when the museum filed its petition Feb. 9. According to a court clerk, justices typically hold on to cases that fall to them during their monthly service.

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Justices have the option of bringing matters to the full seven-member SJC. That has not happened to date in this case.

The museum says it needs the money to close recurring deficits and to make repairs and renovations. The move is opposed by two groups of plaintiffs as well as members of Save the Art-Save the Museum, a community group.

The museum and attorney general did not object to the filing of friend of court briefs by two groups of sale opponents, both of whom fought the proposed sales in a Nov. 1 hearing before Judge John A. Agostini of the Berkshire Superior Court.

But in earlier filings with the SJC, the museum and attorney general opposed allowing those voices to be heard at any session that the SJC may call.

The Tuesday session will be heard in Courtroom 2 of the John Adams Courthouse, located at One Pemberton Square in Boston.

Larry Parnass can be reached at, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.


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