SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal judge dismissed counterclaims against the University of Arizona brought by Rick Norsigian, who claimed to have found “lost negatives” from famed photographer Ansel Adams.
The university was dragged into the legal dispute last year, after the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust sued Norsigian for advertising the negatives he found at a yard sale as Adam’s lost work and selling prints of the images.
The trust maintains that the negatives are not from Adams, but from a talented amateur named Earl Brooks.
Norsigian had said “the trust contacted the University of Arizona and demanded that the university take a position supporting them” in the media, since the university houses the largest Ansel Adams archive in the nation, as well as the Center for Creative Photography, which Adams helped to establish in 1975.
Norsigian claimed that despite its obligation to remain neutral on the issue, the university announced on its website and in a statement to the press that “‘we have no reason to believe that these negatives are, in fact, the work of Ansel Adams, and we support the efforts of the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust to protect its rights in the matter.'”
In his ruling, Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware found that the university has sovereign immunity under the 11th Amendment, pursuant to a 9th Circuit decision from 1981, Rutledge v. Arizona Board of Regents.
Ware also denied Norsigian’s request to conduct discovery into the nature of the university’s and the center’s relationship with the trust. Norsigian’s attorneys filed an appeal to Ware’s decision on Thursday.