Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fagan Attempts to Restart Claim Against Czech Republic After Florida Court Halts "Victims of Holocaust Art Theft" Case

Museum of Decorative Arts.  CC Kirgyt12.
Edward Fagan has filed a lawsuit to obtain artwork--alleged to have been looted by the Nazis--following a dismissal of his initial legal claim.  A Florida district court judge dismissed the case of Victims of Holocaust Art Theft v. Czech Republic; National Gallery in Prague; Museum of Decorative Arts of Prague after the plaintiff failed to obtain a lawyer.

The United States District Court, Southern District of Florida, ruled on June 4 that the newly created organization called Victims of Holocaust Art Theft needed an attorney by July 5 or the case would be dismissed.  Fagan, disbarred from the practice law, could not serve as the the organization's attorney.  He filed a lengthy pleading on June 29 urging the court to allow him to go forward in the case pro se (without an attorney) in recognition of the fact that he and "Victims of Holocaust Art Theft" were one and the same.  Michal Klepetář filed a separate letter on the same date stating that he wished Fagan to represent his interests.

District Court Judge James Cohn dismissed "Victims" case on July 9, writing in a footnote (citations omitted):

In response to the Court’s June 4 Order, Fagan filed a “Motion for Permission for Plaintiff Pro Se to Proceed Under the Name ‘Victims of Holocaust Art Theft’ and for other relief.” In that Motion, Fagan asserts that Plaintiff is not a legal entity apart from Fagan himself but instead is a fictitious name that Fagan is using to bring claims in his individual capacity. As the Court previously noted, however, the allegations of the Complaint indicate that other individuals besides Fagan have an interest in Plaintiff.  But even if the Court were to assume that Fagan alone owns and controls Plaintiff, it remains clear that Fagan is seeking to represent the interests of persons other than himself.  More troubling, Fagan reveals for the first time in his Motion that he is “a disbarred lawyer” and that “[e]ven after [his] disbarment,” he has been “sought out by persons and groups with restitution claims who wanted [him] to assist and consult with them.”  This disclosure suggests that Fagan, despite being disbarred from the practice of law, may be using Plaintiff as a vehicle to represent other persons before this Court.  For these reasons, Fagan’s Motion does not alter the Court’s conclusion that Plaintiff may not proceed without counsel, and the relief sought in that Motion is denied.

The next day, Fagan responded by filing a new lawsuit in his own name, captioned Edward D. Fagan v. Czech Republic; National Gallery in Prague; Museum of Decorative Arts of Prague docket 9:12-cv-80743-KAM.

In order to file a civil complaint to obtain property, one must have standing to sue.  Fagan claims in his latest complaint that he "is an owner of certain rights to The Popper Art Collection which were obtained / acquired from Michal Klepetář (Klepetář ), the Popper heir/legal successor.  It remains to be seen if the court will permit the case to go forward.

CONTACT: www.culturalheritagelawyer.com