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March 22, 2010

Intramural fight still roiling Armenian-American museum plans

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly calls a fight over a proposed Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial "very bitter and very unfortunate." Looks like it will stay that way for a while.

On Tuesday, Judge Kollar-Kotelly kept at least part of the ongoing lawsuit alive, though she narrowed it a bit. In two related rulings, here and here, the judge granted some but not all motions to dismiss various claims and counter-claims.

In brief, and we mean brief, the Armenian Assembly of America wants to build the Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial on the site of an old bank in downtown Washington, D.C. For a time, Gerard R. Cafesjian, formerly executive vice president of West Publishing, and the Cafejian Family Foundation were involved in the effort. Then: bad blood ensued.

The cases are complicated, but the discovery is illuminating.

At one point, for instance, documents show a consultant recommended naming the museum the "Bank of Moral Courage." This did not go over well.

Certainly, Judge Kollar-Kotelly stated Monday, "there is some evidence in the record" that Cafesjian left the proposed museum "in a position in September 2006 where it had no cash on hand and over $200,000 in debt, and left the properties in a state of disrepair."

Furthermore, the judge noted, "there is evidence that some donors decided not to give or delay their donations because of concerns about, among other things, the litigation" between Cafesjian and the Armenian Assembly.

The narrowed cases will continue.


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"Suits & Sentences" is a legal affairs blog written by Michael Doyle, a reporter for McClatchy's Washington Bureau. He was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Yale Law School, where he earned a Master of Studies in Law; he also earned a Masters in Government from The Johns Hopkins University with a thesis on the Freedom of Information Act. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs.

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