Art Law Report

United States Abandons Finally Its Effort to Seize Mask of Ka Nefer Nefer in St. Louis, Egypt’s Plans Unknown

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on July 29, 2014 at 10:17 AM

The Department of Justice has made public its plans to let the deadline pass for seeking rehearing or further review of the June, 2014 decision affirming the dismissal of its efforts to seize the Mask of Ka Nefer Nefer in the St. Louis Art Museum by civil forfeiture. In an interview with St. Louis Post-Dispatch, United States Attorney Richard Callahan stated that “The Department of Justice will take no further legal action with respect to the mask.”

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Topics: Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer, St. Louis Art Museum, Department of Justice, Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e), the Art Law Report, 19 U.S.C. § 1595a, United States, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Museums, Customs, Civil Forfeiture, Ancient Egypt

St. Louis Art Museum Dismisses Its Lawsuit Over Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer, Could Bring it Again if It Chose

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on June 24, 2014 at 1:12 PM

I wondered aloud two weeks ago what the St. Louis Art Museum would do with its declaratory judgment action over the Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the related forfeiture action brought by the government. With the question of seizure answered for good, I suggested that the museum’s next move might be to dismiss its first-filed lawsuit, because its incentive to litigate the question of title was effectively removed entirely with the forfeiture off the table. Judith H. Dobrzynski picked up on this theme at Real Clear Arts.

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Topics: Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer, Real Clear Arts, St. Louis Art Museum, Department of Justice, Judith H. Dobrzynski, Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e), 19 U.S.C. § 1595a, United States, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Customs, Civil Forfeiture, Ancient Egypt

What Happens to St. Louis Art Museum Suit Against the U.S. over the Mask of Ka Nefer Nefer—Will Museum Dismiss its Case Voluntarily?

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on June 16, 2014 at 1:40 PM

On the heels of the St. Louis Art Museum’s victory against the civil forfeiture action over the Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer, the question arises what the museum will do with the lawsuit it filed in 2011 concerning the mask. That lawsuit, The Art Museum Subdistrict of the Metropolitan Zoological Park and Museum District of the City of Saint Louis and the County of Saint Louis, (the “SLAM Case”) filed before the civil forfeiture action that was the subject of last week’s opinion(United States vs. Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer, hereafter the “Forfeiture Action”), sought a declaratory judgment on several issues. This tactic is not uncommon when two parties disagree over a claim; essentially the party who would ordinarily be the defendant (here the possessor of the property, the museum), seeks offensively a declaration about the parties’ rights. Because of its recent victory in the Forfeiture Action, the museum’s best move may be to dismiss the SLAM Case now, rather than litigate ownership questions that it no longer has to answer.

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Topics: Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer, Mohamed Ibrahim, St. Louis Art Museum, Department of Justice, Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e), the Art Law Report, 19 U.S.C. § 1595a, United States, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Customs, Minister of Antiquities, Civil Forfeiture, Ancient Egypt

Appeals Court Rules Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer Will Stay at St. Louis Art Museum Because Government Missed Deadlines

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on June 12, 2014 at 7:10 AM

The Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit has affirmed the dismissal of the U.S. government’s attempt to seize the Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer from the St. Louis Art Museum. Despite the government’s persistent characterization the mask as stolen before it entered the country, the civil forfeiture case has been rebuffed. The narrow issue was whether the trial court had properly denied the government’s request to amend its complaint after an initial challenge, but as the 8th Circuit put it, “Underlying that issue is an attempt to expand the government’s forfeiture powers at the likely expense of museums and other good faith purchasers in the international marketplace for ancient artifacts.” That latter question will have to wait another day, because the case was resolved on the government’s missed deadlines and nothing more.

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Topics: Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer, St. Louis Art Museum, Department of Justice, Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e), the Art Law Report, Restitution, 19 U.S.C. § 1595a, United States, Antiquities, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Customs, Civil Forfeiture, Ancient Egypt

St. Louis Art Museum Prevails Against U.S. Claim to Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on April 3, 2012 at 1:23 PM

The St. Louis Art Museum has defeated the federal goverment's efforts to seize the Egyptian Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer under U.S. customs laws.

The Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer is a funerary mask of an ancient Egyptian noblewoman. The St. Louis Art Museum purchased it from a dealer in 1998. Sometime later, the United States began to seek its seizure, arguing that it was stolen property. The museum sued the government in the first instance to seek a declaration that the attempts to seize the Mask should cease. The United States then brought a civil forfeiture action under U.S. customs laws (proceedings in which the object is the defendant, making the case United States v. The Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer; it is left to the person claiming ownership to file a claim in which she bears the burden of proof). In its papers, the government essentially argued that the fact that the Mask had gone missing in Egypt by 1973 and then surfaced in a sale in the United States decades later, meant that it could not have been imported legally.

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Topics: Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer, St. Louis Art Museum, 19 U.S.C. 1595a, the Art Law Report, United States, Customs, Civil Forfeiture, Ancient Egypt

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