The Other SLAM Mummy Mask Case Quietly Remains Alive for Now

Tuesday, April 3, 2012
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri has denied the federal government's claim to forfeit the Ka Nefer Nefer mummy mask located at the St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM).  But the parallel case of SLAM v. U.S. remains alive ... for the moment.

Before the federal government sought to forfeit the mummy mask in March 2011, SLAM filed a civil action for declaratory relief in federal court seeking to quiet the title of the 19th Dynasty Egyptian mask.  The museum's February 2011 complaint states: the "Museum respectfully seeks declaratory relief to declare the respective rights of the parties with regard to the Mask, specifically that (1) the right of the United States to seek seizure and/or forfeiture pursuant to the provisions of the Tariff Act of 1930 (“Tariff Act”) is foreclosed by the applicable statute of limitations set forth in 19 U.S.C. § 1621, and (2) the provisions of Egyptian Law No. 215 [on the Protection of Antiquities] do not establish the Mask is Egypt's property, nor can the Defendants establish reasonable cause to believe the Mask was 'stolen, smuggled, or clandestinely imported or introduced' into the United States pursuant to 19 U.S.C. § 1595a."

On the same day that the court dismissed the government's effort to forfeit the Ka Nefer Nefer mask, Judge Henry E. Autrey issued an order on March 31, 2012 to stay SLAM's declaratory judgment action "pending the outcome of the civil forfeiture action, United States v. Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer . . . ."

The government will file a motion for leave to amend its complaint in the forfeiture case.  If granted, both the government's forfeiture case and the museum's declaratory relief case might remain active in the court.

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