Sunday, May 25, 2014

DC Judge rules in favor of DC gallery

From DC's Charles Krause Reporting:
After two years of threats, refusing to meet with me or even tell me the nature of the complaints they had received, the Solo Piazza Condominium Board  where I live filed suit on March 16 to shut down the gallery I opened in December 2011.

The issue before the Court was whether an art gallery was an "accessory office use" permitted by the condominium's by-laws, which I was bound by when I purchased my apartment seven years ago. In letters to my attorney, Benny Kass, and to me before the suit was filed, the board changed its story a number of times about why it  was so opposed to allowing me to operate the gallery---especially after it learned that I had obtained a permit from the DC government giving me the right to do so.

Nonetheless, the board clearly expected to win the suit, allocating only $500 for legal fees in the building's 2014 budget (because the bylaws say that if the board has to go to court to enforce the bylaws and wins, the co-owner who loses has to pay both his own legal fees and the condominium's legal fees as well).

Pushing its luck even further, the board filed a motion for summary judgment shortly after it filed its complaint, arguing that since an art gallery  is obviously not an "office," the judge should execute summarily; obviously, they were thinking the judge would make short work of my gallery, not their credibility.

As it turned out, however, the only thing that was obvious about the board's complaint and its motion for summary judgment was that neither they nor their attorney had bothered to do the most basic legal research to determine how the word "office" is defined.  

What my attorneys at Kass, Mitek & Kass discovered, much to their surprise and very much to their credit, was that the word "office" had never been litigated before-- in which case the DC courts rely on Webster's Unabridged Dictionary to define legally undefined words for them.

And sure enough, Webster's defines "office" as "a place where a particular kind of business or  service for others is transacted."

So, dear friends and art aficionados, the judge denied the board's motion for a summary judgment and, instead, ruled in my favor. It's official: my home is now an office and my office is now a place where I can show and sell art that might not otherwise have a home if DC Superior Judge Michael O'Keefe hadn't found that the condo board where I have my home, my gallery and my office hasn't a clue what the bylaws mean nor the wit to look in a dictionary before they file a mean-spirited and expensive lawsuit contending that an art gallery isn't an office and therefore isn't a permitted "accessory office use" of my home office which, by the way, is located in a section of Washington that's an officially designated arts zone.

Is this the end? Probably not. But it's a good beginning.
Read the review of their current exhibit by Mark Jenkins in the WaPo here.