Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Gee's Bend - Franklin case - Response to Judge's Order

Chief U.S. District Judge Callie V. S. Granade ordered both sides in the Lucinda Pettway Franklin case v. Tinwood Ventures, et al to submit briefs on why her Court has jurisdiction in the case by July 20. This order was in response to Defendants motion to have the Franklin case dismissed.

You may recall from the Ben Raines article, "Lucinda Pettway Franklin filed suit ... against the Arnett family, promoters of the nationally recognized Gee's Bend quilt shows, charging that the Arnetts stole the two oldest quilts known to come from Gee's Bend. The quilts, more than 100 years old, were made by Franklin's great-grandmother, Sally Pettway, from worn-out slave clothes and bits of fine fabric cast off from Pettway's masters while she was still a slave."

The Raines article went on to say: "Franklin said Matt Arnett came to her home in Mobile and asked to borrow the quilts for one month so they could be photographed and included in a book about quilts. She remembered he became very excited when he saw the quilts for the first time. That was two years ago. Since that time, Franklin said, Arnett has told her the quilts were destroyed in a fire, accidentally thrown away, ruined in a flood, lost or on his desk ready to be mailed to her. " (A third quilt was also loaned.)

The disputed quilts were later returned to Franklin's attorneys - after the law suit was filed and after a public news conference where appraisals by Holly Anderson and Julie Silber indicated the quilts were not made during slave times or worth very much money.

So - back to the Judge's order. The request by attorneys for the Defendants to dismiss said - in a nut shell - that 1) the appraisals indicated the quilts were not made during slave times, 2) the quilts were not worth enough for the courts to have jurisdiction, and 3) the quilts are now returned.

In the brief submitted by Mrs. Franklin's attorneys, they argue the suit is about an alleged "conversion," which occurred two years ago when the defendant Matt Arnett refused to return the three quilts to Mrs. Franklin and deprived her of the use and enjoyment of the quilts. Mrs. Franklin, as a result, is entitled to compensatory damages. The damages would be based on Mrs. Franklin and the priceless, valuable family history the quilts represented to her - not any appraised value of the quilts. In addition, the brief argues, Mrs. Franklin has a claim for punitive damages. The brief explains that punitive damages are based on the "wrong to the plaintiff" as well as based on "the necessity to prevent similar wrongs from being committed in the future." The combined damages could be an amount over $75,000, the minimum to fall into the jurisdiction of the Court.

Interestingly, the briefs filed by attorneys for Matt Arnett and the other Arnett defendants, "strongly contest" that Mrs. Franklin is entitled to any damages - but does say that the complaint does meet the jurisdictional requirements of the Court.

No word yet on when Chief U.S. District Judge Callie Granade will decide if the Court does have jurisdiction and what, if any, are the next steps in this suit. As mentioned before, you can read the public documents in the case of Lucinda Pettway Franklin v. Tinwood Ventures et al Civil Action No. 07-438. Visit your local public library to see if it has access to Court records or register with PACER - "Public Access to Court Electronic Records ... an electronic public access service that allows users to obtain case and docket information from Federal Appellate, District and Bankruptcy courts, and the U.S. Party/Case Index via the Internet." There's a fee of about 8 cents per page to access the records.


Deborah said...

Wow, what drama! This would make for a great novel!

Mechelle said...

Thanks for visiting my blog!! Also - thanks for keeping us up to date on this Gees Bend fiasco, I don't know all the facts but I hate that these good hearted ladies are being taken advantage of, I hope Arnett pays dearly for his greed!