Friday, September 19, 2014

The Wisner Trust: Heirs lose appeal, September 19, 2014

In a 5-0 ruling, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of Mayor Landrieu regarding the Wisner Trust.  I don't have the actual court decision yet and have not read it but I do know that the big take away from the decision is that the Trust is now officially done and done.  I'm anxious to read the decision because now the real fight begins as to what happens with the land and the decision may have set a precedent as to how that fight may unfold.

Here is a decision posted on the Fourth Circuit's website.

After reading the decision above it looks like these are the decisions:

1.  The Trust is dissolved as of last month, August, 2014.

2.  The Mayor should have gained consent from the Advisory Committee before disbursing the grant money.

3.  The Trust was a public body.

Of course I'm not sure why 2 or 3 matter at this point because if the Trust is dissolved, I would imagine the Advisory Committee will be dissolved along with it.



Anonymous said...

Don't be so sure that this does the trick,Z. There are 2 partial dissents and the major point, No.1, relies upon the Merriam Webster Dictionary, which means there is no dispositive case on the point.It's going up for sure.

Jason Brad Berry said...

Oh I know that but what's interesting to me is that if they are dissolving the Trust, would it not logically follow that the Donation is dissolved as well? If the Donation doesn't exist any longer....Does that mean than land ownership reverts back to the donor, Ed Wisner and his heirs by proxy?

I mean I'm no legal eagle but if the Donation is now kaput, would that not mean the land itself reverts back to its original owner(s)?

Regardless of this, you can count on one thing....the Wisner grants are almost certainly a thing of the past. If they are now going to battle it out over the land itself, I'm sure any of the money its generating off royalties are going to get tied up in an escrow account until they can get a final decision on who owns what.

I just can't believe Landrieu has pushed this so far and gambled so much. How is this scenario good for anyone? There are numerous Arts organizations that relied on this grant money for the past decades if not half century or more....they're shit outta luck now. Will the City end up taking the whole pie? I don't know but I can guarantee you it will never happen while Mitch is seated as will be drawn out long past his last mayoral term.

His hubris would appear destructive on a level that pales in comparison to Nagin.

Jason Brad Berry said...

I mean...if I'm reading this correctly...they just confirmed that the the Trust is dead.

Ok....ok....Ed's benevolent gift is rescinded.

I think they just argued themselves out of the entire thing.

It's a fascinating legal stance. He's totally fucked up the party....I cant' wait to hear his excuse.

Jason Brad Berry said...


Anonymous said...

As I read the opinion, the donation to the city was valid. The city was required to hold the property in trust for the beneficiaries for 100 years. That term has expired and now the city is free to sell the property (or they can keep it) but any proceeds are to be divided among the beneficiaries.

Anonymous said...

You do bring up a great point. What happens to all of the charities that depended on Ed Wisner's great gift?

This includes:
New Orleans Ballet, LA Philharmonic Orchestra, New Orleans Opera, Roots of Music, Children's Museum, African American Museum, Harry Thompson Center, Ogden Museum, Parkway Partners, Lionman Foundation, Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans, Dillard University, Bridge House, Arts Council of New Orleans, etc....

What happens to the money now? Terrible.

Anonymous said...

The city is now free to do whatever they want with the property as long any proceeds are divided amongst the beneficiaries. I'm not sure if the heirs will be included in that group or not. My guess is that they are out.
So the city has the power now. Not necessarily the mayor. But even the city's portion of any proceeds has to be distributed for the causes set forth in the original donation. So i don't see a big advantage to the city selling or even any justification to change the status quo. However, from reading your past posts, it is clear that the real threat is from a politically connected buyer convincing them otherwise. Or maybe Tulane? Because although the city has restrictions on its use of any proceeds, the remaining beneficiaries do not.

Jason Brad Berry said...

"The city is now free to do whatever they want with the property as long any proceeds are divided amongst the beneficiaries. I'm not sure if the heirs will be included in that group or not. My guess is that they are out."

I don't think so....not at all.

Anonymous said...

Why do you think the heirs would not be included?
Do you have access to the compromise and judgment od 1929 and 1930, respectively.

Unknown said...

The donation is not dead-the trust-which was a condition of the donation is now terminated-but the city has owned the land since at least 1930 and now owns it free of the trust.

This decision leaves it unclear as to whether these other parties were also donees who are now co-owners with the city. The summary of the 1930 consent agreement is vague on that point.

There's nothing in this decision to indicate the Mayor lost anything on behalf of the city itself. The beneficiaries and grantees may get shortchanged but the city qua city will not under this decision.

Jason Brad Berry said...

"but the city has owned the land since at least 1930 and now owns it free of the trust."

Not just the City, the other trustees are owners in division if the donation is still valid.

One thing is absolute...the Mayor is no longer the trustee. If the trust is dissolved the ownership of the land is now governed by City Council. Nothing can be done with the land without City Council's approval.

Plugs said...

The City has been an owner in 'in division' with the 4 other beneficiaries since 1930. The City has not been the sole owner and is not the sole owner at present - thus they (the City) cannot decide unilaterally (City Council or not) what to do with the property.

The City has the option to sell the property at present, along with any other party if they so choose. If one beneficiary decides they would like to sell, it is likely that they will need to proceed to court for partition. This is when it gets ugly and lengthy.

This has several years before being settled. One thing is for sure in my opinion, the citizens of New Orleans and its charities have been dealt a blow by disrupting this cash cow.

Thank Mitch!

Clay said...

Advocate writeup