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The seven-year battle over the bitter and complex Arnold Arboretum case ended Monday when the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts handed down a three-to-two ruling in favor of the University.
The decision means that Harvard will not have to return the Arboretum's library and herbaria from their present location in Cambridge to the Arboretum proper in Jamaica Plain a move that would have cost several hundred thousand dollars.
Harvard moved about 57,000 books and 600,000 plant specimens to the University Herbarium in 1953. The Association for the Arnold Arboretum later sought their return, the Arboretum later sought their return, alleging that Harvard had tried to increase its prestige at the Arboretum's expense.
In a 12,000-word opinion, written by Associate Justice Arthur E. Whittemore '17, the Court held that "the best interests of the Arboretum" had not been violated by the removal of the materials. The Court cited evidence that the move to Cambridge had created "a world famous sicentific station" with "one of the greatest libraries and herbaria in the world."
To the contention that the move had damaged the prestige of the Arboretum, the Court replied that "the prestige was not...a capital asset which could not be expended [under the terms of the trust by which Harvard runs the Arboretum]." The opinion said there was nothing to "show or suggest that the Corporation was acting to increase the prestige of Harvard University as an end in itself."
"There is no implication that, to promote these purposes [of the trust], the library and herbarium could not be maintained in Cambridge," the Court concluded. Justice: Whittemore was joined in the majority opinion by Associate Justices John V. Spalding '20 and R. Aml Cutter '22.
Won't Interest Court
Although the case could conceivably be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, that is considered highly unlikely. Most lawyers feel it does not involve any principle likely to interest the Court.
The Court's decision however, requires the University to fulfill certain other obligations towards the Arboretum. These Include the improvement of the working library at the Jamaica Plain site, the proper catologuing and identification of all Arboretum materials now in the University Herbarium, and an appropriate notice at the Cambridge location identifying the Arnold Arboretum materials.
The trust under which Harvard runs the Arboretum was established in 1872 under the will of James B. Arnold of New Bedford. The Arboretum was established on, and still occupies, 265 acres in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston.
A dissenting opinion, written by Associate Justice Jacob J. Spiegie with Associate Justice Paul G. Kirk '26 concurring, charges that the Corporation "did not use the trust assets within the express trust purposes."
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