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Originally published Monday, March 12, 2012 at 1:57 PM

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Judge: Barnes move foes must reimburse legal fees

The Barnes Foundation must be reimbursed $40,000 in legal fees by opponents fighting the world-famous art collection's move from the suburbs to downtown Philadelphia, according to a ruling from the judge who has presided over the long legal battle.

Associated Press

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PHILADELPHIA —

The Barnes Foundation must be reimbursed $40,000 in legal fees by opponents fighting the world-famous art collection's move from the suburbs to downtown Philadelphia, according to a ruling from the judge who has presided over the long legal battle.

Montgomery County Orphans' Court Judge Stanley Ott ordered about a dozen members of Friends of the Barnes Foundation and the group's attorney, Sam Stretton, to pay a total of $25,000. Ott also ordered a Pennsylvania attorney who filed a separate petition to reimburse the foundation $15,000.

The Barnes Foundation sought reimbursement for $65,000 in fees and costs to respond to petitions filed by both groups seeking to reopen the case. A Barnes spokesman declined to comment Monday on the judge's decision, dated Wednesday.

Stretton said Monday he will "absolutely" appeal the judge's order, which he said he found shocking.

"I believe I did raise serious and important issues we had not raised before," he said. "It was not frivolous."

In October, Ott refused the opponents' request to reopen the case and rejected claims that he didn't have all the evidence when he approved the Barnes' move in 2004. He also reiterated his previous ruling that the Friends, a citizens group that includes many neighbors of the gallery's longtime home, lacked legal standing to block the relocation.

The Friends of the Barnes Foundation, in its effort to halt the multibillion-dollar collection's 5-mile move from Lower Merion, said Ott was misled by the actions of the attorney general's office, which has oversight over charitable trusts, and cited what it contended was new evidence presented in a 2009 film on the saga, "The Art of Steal." Stretton argued, as does the movie, that then-Attorney General Mike Fisher failed to serve as a neutral party and pressured the Barnes' controlling board of trustees to go along with the relocation.

"The Barnes administration and their powerful friends have done things that our value system teaches us to oppose," Evelyn Yaari of the Friends' group said in a written statement Monday, "withholding vital evidence from a court of law, deceiving the public, orchestration of misleading media coverage, and now ruthlessly using financial punishment against citizen advocates for preservation and justice."

The Barnes galleries closed in July. The new building is scheduled to open May 19 on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, near the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Rodin Museum.

Dr. Albert C. Barnes, a pharmaceutical magnate and self-made millionaire, established the Barnes Foundation in 1922 to teach populist methods of art appreciation. He amassed a collection regarded as one of the world's greatest private holdings of contemporary art by artists including Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse and Picasso.

Barnes died in 1951. His trust stipulated that his trove of 800 masterpieces "remain in exactly the places they are" after his death and gave control of his foundation to Lincoln University in nearby Chester County.

Barnes Foundation officials first asked Ott's permission to relocate in 2002 to relocate. The foundation said its endowment was exhausted and it would go bankrupt if required to remain in its suburban home, where it was subject to restrictive township zoning regulations limiting the number of visitors.

The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Lenfest Foundation and The Annenberg Foundation promised to help the Barnes raise $150 million for a new gallery and an endowment when the relocation to Philadelphia was approved. In exchange, Lincoln University ceded control of the foundation's board of trustees and permitted the foundation's new benefactors to appoint their own members.

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Online:

Barnes Foundation: http://www.barnesfoundation.org

Friends of the Barnes: http://www.barnesfriends.org

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