The Department of Justice has made public its plans to let the deadline pass for seeking rehearing or further review of the June, 2014 decision affirming the dismissal of its efforts to seize the Mask of Ka Nefer Nefer in the St. Louis Art Museum by civil forfeiture. In an interview with St. Louis Post-Dispatch, United States Attorney Richard Callahan stated that “The Department of Justice will take no further legal action with respect to the mask.”
That brings to a final close the U.S. efforts to seize the mask on the theory that it had been stolen before it entered the country (which would have justified its impoundment under customs law), all because the government mixed up its deadlines. As we suspected it might,the St. Louis Art Museum dismissed its first-filed civil suit when the government’s case was defeated by the 8th Circuit. With little incentive to continue litigating ownership with an adversary (the U.S.) that could not win back the mask, the museum dropped its declaratory judgment case.
This does not necessarily end all wrangling over the mask. Egypt itself, which has steadfastly maintained that the mask was taken illicitly before being imported, could still take legal action in the U.S. whether that would face timeliness or statute of limitations/laches issues would likely be the question Egypt first considers.
For now, however, the battle over the mask is over, and it will remain in St. Louis.