Almost three months after three Rose Art Museum benefactors filed a lawsuit against the university, lawyers for both sides will finally see the inside of a courtroom at a motion hearing to be held Oct. 13.
The motions, one filed by the university to dismiss the suit and the other filed by the plaintiffs for a preliminary injunction on the sale of any museum art, will be heard in Suffolk Probate Court.
The suit, filed July 27, is the plaintiff’s response to university President Jehuda Reinharz’s January announcement that the university Board of Trustees authorized the closing of the Rose Art Museum and the sale of its art.
The plaintiffs are suing the university for a court issued injunction that would prevent the university from closing the museum and selling its artwork.
At the time the suit was filed, university outside counsel Thomas Reilly wrote a statement calling the suit “frivolous and without merit,” and said the university “look[s] forward to aggressively defending our position in court.”
Now, Reilly has filed a motion to dismiss the case, which, if granted will quash any hope the plaintiffs have of preventing its closure.
“If they win that, we’re done,” Jonathan Lee, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said.
The plaintiff’s motion, on the other hand, seeks a preliminary injunction, which would prevent the university from closing the museum and selling the artwork for the entire duration of the suit.
Lee said the lawsuit was the plaintiff’s last resource in convincing the university to leave the museum open.
“Nobody sues universities, but what they are doing is so bad in and of itself, and for the university, that we had no other choice,” Lee said, citing the media firestorm that followed Reinharz’s January announcement that the university was considering closing the museum.
If the judge does not grant the defense’s motion to dismiss the suit, the process of discovery will begin. During discovery, both sides are required to disclose documents pertinent to the suit, regardless of whether the documents help or hurt them. Additionally, each side will have to provide a witness list.
At that time, the university may be compelled by the court to turn over currently restricted documents to the plaintiff’s lawyers, and a trial date may be set.
The trial date may be months or years in the future, however, as is often the case in civil lawsuits.
As Lee said in an interview, “lawsuits are choreographed dances.”