Painter Law Firm

Firm delays sale of Tyrannosaurus fossil in New York on behalf of President of Mongolia 

New York, NY– Today, the sale of a dinosaur skeleton believed to be a Mongolian national treasure – a 24-foot-long, 8-foot-tall Tyrannosaurus fossil – was put on hold by legal action taken by the President of Mongolia, His Excellency Elbegdorj Tsakhia. Attorney Robert Painter filed a lawsuit in a Texas district court on behalf of President Elbegdorj enjoining the sale and transfer of the huge fossil until legal ownership and proper provenance is proven in court. A Texas judge signed a temporary restraining order that ordered Dallas-based Heritage Auctions, Inc. to halt the sale of the fossil that experts believe was smuggled out of Mongolia. Officials with Heritage Auctions were served with the temporary restraining order (TRO) On May 19 and 20, 2012, in New York, both before and during the auction. When this particular lot came up for auction on May 20, 2012, the Heritage Auctions, Inc. auctioneer read a statement, “The sale of this next lot will be contingent on a satisfactory resolution of a court proceeding dealing with this matter.” At that point, Attorney Robert Painter got Judge Carlos Cortez, of the 44th District Court of Dallas County, Texas, who signed the TRO, on his cell phone. Painter stood up at the auction, and stated that the judge was on the telephone (see photo, where Painter is in a brown jacket with a cell phone in his right hand) and that going forward with the auction, even contingent on the court proceeding, would violate the TRO. Heritage Auctions, Inc. President Greg Rohan rushed toward Painter, refused to speak with Judge Cortez, asked Painter to leave the room and directed that the auction proceed. Painter said, “I am very surprised that Heritage Auctions, Inc. knowingly defied a valid court order, particularly with the judge on the phone, listening and ready to explain his order. It makes me wonder if that Heritage Auctions, Inc. has a similar disregard for the property laws that protect antiquities, like the Tyrannosaurus fossil, that they attempt to auction.” “I applaud President Elbegdorj for taking swift action to oppose the sale of this important Mongolian national treasure, and to make sure that it is not transferred to anyone until its ownership is verified in court,” said Texas-based Ed Story, Honorary Consul General of Mongolia. “His leadership in protecting the cultural heritage of the Mongolian people was on display again today in New York, thousands of miles away from Mongolia.” Painter added, “This is a victory not only for the people of Mongolia who are one step closer to proving the true ownership of this important dinosaur, but also for the important friendship between the people of United States and Mongolia.” According to the Daily Mail newspaper, this 80 million year old fossil was found in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia in 2005. A team of UK and American scientists assembled it. Mongolian law prohibits the transport of such fossils outside the country. “These specimens are the patrimony of the Mongolian people and should be in a museum in Mongolia,” said Dr. Mark Norell, Chairman and Curator, American Museum of American History, Division of Palentology, who worked in Mongolia for 22 years.

Additional Resources

Official Statement of His Excellency Elbegdorj Tsakhia, President of Mongolia

Original Petition and Exhibits Filed With Dallas County District Clerk on 5/19/12

Temporary Restraining Order Signed By Judge Carlos Cortez on 5/19/12

Live Science coverage

USA Today coverage

ABC News coverage

Yahoo coverage

Reuters coverage

Spero News coverage

UK Daily Mail coverage

FOX News coverage

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Robert Painter is an attorney and member of Painter Law Firm PLLC.

Opinions expressed on Painter Law Firm are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect those of Painter Law Firm. Opinions and comments do not establish an attorney-client relationship.
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Robert Painter is an attorney and member of Painter Law Firm PLLC.

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