Ralph G. Wellington, Esquire
The Barnes Foundation’s lawyers at Schnader Harrison Segal and Lewis reacted vigorously to the Petition filed last year by Samuel C. Stretton, Esquire on behalf of Friends of the Barnes Foundation, BarnesWatch, and a number of individuals. Their Brief reminded the Court that no one other than the Pennsylvania Attorney General has legal standing to intervene in the Barnes matter — especially not the pesky, tenacious Friends who had already been dismissed by Judge Ott in 2008. And especially not a number of the individual petitioners, who have tried multiple times before to seek Justice for the Barnes Trust in Court.
Seems the Schnader defense team’s legal arguments needed some heft to make them appear even more justified, especially when Mr. Stretton’s Petition so clearly spelled out how messed up the Barnes case is. And most of all, they needed something to get these extremely annoying Barnes’inistas to SHUT THE FUCK UP.
What to do? Do what any self-respecting gold-plated law firm does: ask Judge Ott to impose punishing financial sanctions forcing the Friends pay the Barnes Foundation’s legal fees and expenses – and make sure the bill is sizeable enough to provide damage control. In short, kill the messenger of the bad news that the Barnes case was, let’s say, deeply flawed.
When Judge Ott issued his Opinion last October, he dismissed the Friends’ Petition for lack of legal standing and he also upheld the Barnes Foundation’s demand for Sanctions. He wrote that the Friends did something “santionable” by bringing up the topic of the $107 million taxpayer money for the Barnes project in Philadelphia. Judge Ott offered to hold a hearing on the subject of the sanctions.
Then the Barnes lawyers submitted their bills. These guys do not horse around. $64,000. In the world of the Barnes Foundation, which has spent tens of millions on lawyers working cases brought by the Barnes, $64,000 is not much, but to the Friends it is. But that’s not the point. As Sam Stretton, Esq. explained in his Objections to the Sanctions, there is no legal basis for the sanctions. And Sam also explained why the amount billed by Schnader is outrageous.
So on February 2, Judge Ott held a hearing about it. Things were going along quite nicely with each side calmly setting out their positions. Then Ralph Wellington, Esquire took the stand to be questioned by another Schnader senior partner about the legal fees. While explaining to the Court why the $64,000 was justified, he stunned the Friends in the Courtroom with some news. The $450 an hour for services was a discounted rate and a huge bargain because, after all, the Barnes Foundation is a “charitable” organization. His usual hourly rate is $710 an hour.
Mr. Wellington didn’t flinch when talking about his pay scale, but you could hear a collective gasp of amazement from the Friends. And yet, it was a moment of brilliant illumination.
Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis and its client the Barnes Foundation are in another world! It’s the world of privilege and power, status and influence. It’s a world for Pews, Annenbergs, Lenfests, and Perelmans; not for people like the Friends.
Whether he meant to or not, Mr. Wellington pegged the Barnes move as an undertaking of, by, and for the 1%.
Here is a link to reporter Cheryl Allison’s story on the Court Hearing for Main Line Media News. KYW’s Suburban Chief Brad Segall also covered the story.The Philadelphia Inquirer didn’t cover it, though. The paper’s Culture Reporter explained that because Judge Ott hasn’t issued his Ruling, there was no “news.” Judge Ott did not say when he will issue his final ruling on the matter. The Friends plan to appeal.