Technical Legal Point Stalls Arboretum Suit
Way Now Cleared for Move to Herbarium
A law suit to prohibit the Corporation from transferring books and plant specimens now in the Arnold Arboretum to quarters in the new Herbarium has been temporarily stymied.
Attorney Robert G. Dodge '93 began action against Harvard on behalf of several clients, including Grenville Clark '03, a former member of the Corporation. Dodge contended that the Corporation would break the terms of the trust left by James Arnold if material was removed from the Arboretum. Arnold's trust provides for the founding and maintenance of the Arboretum.
No Private Suit
Since Massachusetts law forbids a private citizen to bring suit against the administrators of a trust unless the state attorney general allows his name to be used as plaintiff, Dodge took his case to Attorney General George Fingold.
Fingold has refused to be plaintiff in the case, however, having decided that the Corporation acted legally in planning the move.
State law does not compell the attorney general to enter a suit against his better judgment. So Dodge's case will probably not be heard in court.
The Attorney General, when approached by Dodge, assigned the case to Harris Booras, the state's trust expert. After conferences with Dodge and Clark, and former Provost Paul H. Buck and Oscar M. Shaw '26, University attorney Booras advised Fingold not to enter the suit.
The proposed transfer from the arboretum is the result of a report issued over a year ago by botanist Irving W. Bailey '07. The report stressed the need for centralizing Harvard's botanical collections. At the time, some people raised the objection that Arnold Arboretum was considered a trust administered by the Corporation, rather than an integral part of Harvard.
If Dodge can obtain a court order compelling Fingold to start suit against the Corporation, the almost completed Herbarium would probably go unused for the duration of trial proceedings.
Such an order would have to contend that Fingold had shown "gross abuse of discretion," in deciding not to act. No Massachusetts law allows a court to issue an order of this sort.