Disgraced Lawyer Attempts Return To World Of Nazi Art Theft

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Ed Fagan, the lawyer who once won big settlements for Holocaust survivors and South African apartheid victims and was later disbarred in New York and New Jersey, is attempting a comeback. Kind of.In April, Fagan filed a lawsuit in a U.S. District Court in Florida on behalf of the Victims of Holocaust Art Theft against the Czech Republic, the National Gallery in Prague, and the Museum of Decorative Arts of Prague. The suit seeks the recovery of valuable artwork owned by Richard and Regina Popper, prominent Czech-Jewish art collectors who were deported from Prague to the Lodz Ghetto, where they were killed in early 1940s.

This week, U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn in Florida wrote an order stating that the case cannot proceed without a proper attorney involved.

The April complaint said that Victims of Holocaust Art Theft “is a business registered in Florida and in this judicial district, is an owner of certain interests in The Popper Collection, [and] is a limited partner with and has limited but express authority [of] Michal Klepetár, one of The Popper Heirs.” It also said that the group’s formation “is the result of agreements, cooperation and partnering between / of Edward D. Fagan and Michal Klepetár.” In his order this week, Cohn wrote that although it is clear Fagan filed the complaint as a “pro se” representative of the group, a licensed attorney is required to represent corporations, partnerships, or associations in federal court.

“If no attorney appears on Plaintiff’s behalf by [July 5, 2012], the Court will dismiss this action without prejudice and close the case,” Cohn wrote.

Fagan was disbarred in New York in 2008, and in New Jersey in 2009, for misappropriating client funds. Last month, Fagan exchanged emails with The South Florida Sun Sentinel about his new case.

“I am not the Ed Fagan of years ago, about whom some people complained, and on whom other people gave accolades. They took my license, but not my brains,” Fagan wrote from Prague. “I am very proud of what I am now doing and hopefully I can be judged by who I am and what I am doing today — not based on the past.”

Fagan did not return an email Thursday from TPM seeking comment.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website?s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl@talkingpointsmemo.com
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