Despite Yale’s arguments to the contrary, Peru insisted in a motion filed Monday that its lawsuit against the University should be heard in a Washington, D.C., court.
In the 57-page document, Peru defends the jurisdiction of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and presents even more historical background about the nearly century-long dispute over Inca artifacts housed at Yale. The motion is the latest piece of an extended legal back-and-forth that last saw Yale ask for the case to be dismissed in March, because the University claims the Washington court has no jurisdiction over the matter.
Now, though, Peru has new evidence that ties the legal battle to this nation’s capital.
“The issue is that D.C. is the appropriate place for the case to be heard,” Peru’s lawyer, William Cook of DLA Piper , said in a telephone interview last night. “It’s a venue that is well-experienced in adjudicating international disputes, and the facts as we’ve pled them in this newest pleading clearly indicate that the majority of events that underlie the case took place in D.C.”
Of course, Cook acknowledged, the most important events surrounding the artifacts took place in Peru; it was in Machu Picchu that Yale explorer Hiram Bingham III excavated the objects in the early 20th century. But, Cook said, an intervention by the United States government and the extensive involvement of the Washington-based National Geographic Society help justify trying the case in Washington.
For instance, Peru’s new motion states that a secretary to President William Howard Taft 1878 wrote a letter on Feb. 15, 1912 to Huntington Wilson, who was at the time the acting secretary of state. In the letter, Peru says, Taft’s office called on Wilson to ask Peru to allow Bingham’s expedition.
Peru’s new motion also places added emphasis on the National Geographic Society’s role in brokering Bingham’s trips to Peru. Because National Geographic is headquartered in Washington, Peru argues, the court there has even more reason to hear the case.
Yale, for its part, has long maintained that a Connecticut court should have jurisdiction over any disputes related to the artifacts.
“None of Peru’s claims have any merit,” Yale’s lawyers wrote in their March motion, “but even if Peru’s claims had any merit … the District of Columbia would not be the right place to resolve them.”
University General Counsel Dorothy Robinson did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday. But she told the News in March that “when Yale is sued in a location and court that lacks jurisdiction, we normally object.”
There is no telling what Yale’s next step will be as it continues to defend against the suit that Peru filed in December. Cook said he will take a wait-and-see approach, because “one of the luxuries of being the moving party is that we don’t have to predict what the responding party is going to do.”