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He left the law for his love of art, but more than 20 years later his love of art has come back to bite him — to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Robert Fastov was a 17-year veteran of the Commerce Department’s legal department when he set out to sell art in 1985. His local gallery got off the ground, but troubles began in 1993 when Fastov tried to sell a painting through auction house Christie, Manson & Woods. He claimed the painting, which he purchased from a Pennsylvania antique dealer for $600, was an original by 19th-century Austrian artist Emil Jakob Schindler. But Christie’s wasn’t certain and refused to sell it. In a 79-page letter, Fastov demanded a $168,000 settlement to stop litigation he suggested would cost Christie’s $300,000 in attorney fees. In 1997, Fastov filed a 225-page pro se complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. In response to Christie’s motion for summary judgment, Fastov filed a 59-page opposition, a 90-page declaration, and more than 1,500 pages of exhibits. The court was not amused. “A first-year law student is taught that a filing . . . should be tailored to achieve the paramount goal of assisting the Court in rendering its decision,” wrote Judge William Stafford Jr., a Florida judge who is handling the case. “Plaintiff’s filing does the opposite. It is an abuse of the litigation process.” But Fastov didn’t take the hint, not even after losing the case. Last week, Stafford sanctioned Fastov for “egregious behavior, which unreasonably and vexatiously multiplied these proceedings.” Stafford says Fastov will have to pay attorney fees to Christie’s, whose legal team from Hughes, Hubbard & Reed places its tab far north of Fastov’s $300,000 estimate. How much Fastov must pay is up to Magistrate Judge Alan Kay to decide, but even that won’t be the last word. Fastov is planning to appeal.
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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