Court sets deadline for property transfer in Armenian Genocide museum case
Deadline is May 23; Assembly motion for new trial is denied
Published: Wednesday May 11, 2011
Washington - The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has entered its final judgment in the Armenian Genocide museum and memorial case, ordering on May 9 that all of the properties assembled for the project revert to the Cafesjian Family Foundation (CFF) by May 23. The order comes following the court's initial ruling in favor of CFF made on January 26.
Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly also denied the motion for a new trial filed by the Armenian Assembly of America (AAA), the losing party.
"I welcome the court's concluding verdict that finally frees us all to build this long-awaited museum and memorial about the fact and ongoing consequences of the Armenian Genocide," CFF chairman Gerard L. Cafesjian said, commenting on the verdict.
"Thankfully, this case is finally over," said John B. Williams, counsel for CFF. "The properties have to be transferred to CFF in the next two weeks. That is what we have all been fighting for. We hope that the Assembly leadership will be willing to amicably resolve the few loose ends that remain."
CFF board member Ross Vartian reiterated the call to the leadership of the Armenian Assembly to "cease blocking the project and instead to abide by the May 9 ruling ordering the transfer of all properties to the CFF no later than May 23, 2011."
"Further delay serves no constructive purpose," Vartian added in a comment for The Armenian Reporter, which is published by Mr. Cafesjian.
Key elements of the final verdict
The judge ordered the "transfer the property to CFF in accordance with D.C. law by no later than May 23, 2011." And further that the transfer take place "without any reimbursement requirement and without regard to any tax consequences that might result from the transfer."
The latter clause is significant since the AAA was seeking to further delay the property transfer by claiming that hypothetical property appreciation could possibly have tax consequences.
The court also asked a magistrate judge to determine the exact amount of compensation due to Mr. Cafesjian for legal fees he paid as he was forced to defend himself against what were proved in court to be groundless accusations.
The court will further probe the issue of whether the AAA acted in bad faith by delaying production of documents until the eve of trial. The court also noted "the damning contents of many of the[se] documents." If the judge is not satisfied by the AAA's explanation, she may order payment of additional expenses incurred by Mr. Cafesjian as a result.
The court determined that the AAA leadership was not acting in violation of court orders when it recently moved the collections of the Armenian National Institute - intended for the future museum and memorial - from the premises to an off-site storage facility.
Denying motion for new trial
The court also denied the motion for a new trial filed by the AAA, as it "failed to present a valid basis for ordering a new trial."
With an affidavit filed by Van Krikorian, the motion alleged that the court was biased in favor of Mr. Cafesjian because of the judge's shared interest in art and alleged connections with former president Bill Clinton.
"Based on Van Krikorian's declaration, it appears that the filing of the motion was motivated by the fact that [the AAA] received a largely adverse decision from the Court rather than by the sudden discovery of an alleged bias" in favor of Mr. Cafesjian, the judge wrote in the memorandum opinion.
The court also noted that the motion "does not state that the declaration of Van Krikorian was submitted in good faith" as is required.
The court called the conspiracy theory concocted as part of their motion "entirely speculative."
"The causal connection between the Court's rulings and its alleged interest is far too attenuated to warrant recusal," the court concluded.
Speaking on April 24 from the steps of the future site of the museum and memorial, Ross Vartian stressed, "CFF pledges to relaunch this project with the participation of all interested organizations and individuals."
"We will do so in common cause and urgent purpose," Vartian said. "Together we will complete this first ever museum and memorial in the Diaspora dedicated to this crime against humanity by April 24, 2015. Our martyrs and survivors deserve nothing less."
To view May 9, 2011 memorandum opinion outlining the final judgment in the case visit https://ecf.dcd.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/show_public_doc?2008cv1254-241
To view May 9, 2011 memorandum opinion denying the motion for a new trial visit https://ecf.dcd.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/show_public_doc?2008cv1254-239
To view January 26 memorandum opinion with the original court ruling visit https://ecf.dcd.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/show_public_doc?2008cv1254-193