We were privileged to file today a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court of the United States on behalf of our client, art dealer Alexander Khochinsky. The petition asks the Court for reinstatement of a lawsuit against Poland for lack of subject matter jurisdiction (i.e., sovereign immunity) for Poland’s effort to have Khochinsky extradited from New York as leverage to force him to relinquish a painting that he inherited from his father. The case invokes three provisions of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1605 (the FSIA): the implicit waiver exception, the counterclaim exception, and the non-commercial tort exception. The basis on which we seek the Court’s review is simple: if the holding below is the law, then no one is safe in the United States from any number of rogue regimes that abuse the extradition system for discriminatory and persecutory reasons. To allow this decision to stand is a threat to any American. What if, for example, Turkey pursued a Christian American in similar fashion motivated by religious animus about owning a particular kind of art from the Ottoman Empire? What if the Taliban, now the de facto government of Afghanistan, declared a worldwide intention to find Jews in possession of Pashto cultural property? What if China declared American intellectual property to be revolutionary patrimony?
Topics: China, Alexander Khochinsky, Holocaust claims, extradition, FSIA, "Girl with Dove", Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Poland, Sullivan and Worcester LLP, 28 U.S.C. § 1605, Operation Barbarossa, Taliban, Afghanistan, Turkey, Pashto
Congress has passed and President Obama is expected to sign two bills related to looted art and the availability of U.S. courts to hear disputes over them. The Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery (HEAR) Act of 2016 and the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Clarification Act (FCEJCA, for lack of a handy acronym) were both passed without objection both the House of Representatives on December 10, 2016, and are expected to be signed by President Obama shortly. The HEAR Act is a major shift in the law of Nazi-looted art claims specifically, while the FCEJCA is controversial but unlikely to have a broad impact one way or another. It is perhaps most remarkable that in an era of unique partisanship and political polarization, members of Congress from both parties and the President agreed on anything, let alone unanimously (sponsors include such unusual allies as Ted Cruz, Richard Blumenthal, John Cornyn, and Charles Schumer).
Topics: Legislation, Guelph Treasure, Alfred Flechtheim, Russia, Nazi-looted art, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 22 U.S.C. § 2459, FSIA, expropriation exception”, NS Raubkunst, Restitution, World War II, State Hermitage Museum, Charles Schumer, Immunity from Seizure Act, Chabad, 28 U.S.C. § 1605, John Cornyn, Welfenschatz, Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act, Richard Blumenthal, Ted Cruz, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional, Mikhail Piotrovsky, Politico, Anita Difanis
There has been additional commentary in the last week on the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Clarification Act, including this piece at Hyperallergic in which I’m quoted. The piece reminds me to revisit a confusing subject latent in the whole discussion: immunity from suit versus immunity from seizure. Despite what one frequently reads, the current bill would have no effect at all on immunity from seizure, which seems to be most people’s concern. It would affect only a small category of exceptions for immunity from suit, that is, who can be sued, not what can be loaned into the United States.
Topics: Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Clarifica, Amsterdam, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, U.S. Federal Republic of Germany, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, FSIA, Restitution, Kingdom of Spain, IFSA, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Immunity from Seizure Act, Museums, 28 U.S.C. § 1605, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity, State Department
I’ve been talking quite a bit to friends, colleagues and clients about the impact of last week’s decision in the Cassirer v. Thyssen Bornemisza case. The New York Times had a follow up article yesterday which was an interesting treatment of the various themes at work in the case and in restitution cases in the United States generally these days. In fact, I think the effect is mostly limited, except to the extent that the decision assumes and treats as uncontroversial important principles about sales under duress and is a case that resolved title under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). As we predicted, the Times article makes clear that the museum has absolutely no intention of giving the painting back, but did float the idea of some recognition of the historical circumstances, which is progress (certainly compared to other instances in which obvious circumstances of duress are denied).
Topics: Lilly Cassirer Neubauer, Terezin Declaration, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Rue St. Honoré après-midi êffet de pluie, Jacques Goudstikker, California Code of Civil Procedure § 354.3, Nazi-looted art, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Washington Conference Principles, Bakalar v. Vavra, Fritz Grünbaum, FSIA, adverse possession, expropriation exception”, Restitution, Marei Von Saher, sovereign immunity, Egon Schiele, Jakob Schweidwimmer, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 222, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Camille Pissarro, foreign affairs doctrine, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Museums, Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen- Bornemisza, 28 U.S.C. § 1605
The U.S. House of Representatives passed yesterday H.R. 889, the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Clarification Act for the third time in four years. Identical bills passed the house in early 2012 and again last year but failed to win passage in the Senate and signature by the President, thus expiring without becoming a law (and remaining just a bill sitting on Capitol Hill). Will it become law? Probably not, and after a little reflection and evolution, that’s probably for the best.
Topics: U.S. House of Representatives, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Clarifica, Second Hickenlooper Amendment, Russia, Herrick Feinstein, Nazi-looted art, Konowaloff, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Association of Art Museum Directors, Restitution, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, act of state doctrine, Senate, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Capitol Hill, Immunity from Seizure Act, Chabad, Federal Republic of Germany, 28 U.S.C. § 1605, Welfenschatz, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity, Mari-Claudia Jiménez, Cuba
One of the longest running art restitution litigations in the United States has been dismissed for a second time, with another appeal likely to follow. The heirs of Lilly Cassirer Neubauer have been pursuing the return of Camille Pissarro’s Rue St. Honoré, après-midi, êffet de pluie from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection in Madrid for more than ten years, but on June 4, 2015 the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles ruled that the Spanish museum has acquired full title to the painting by adverse possession. The key aspect of the decision is the court’s resolution of the choice of law question, namely, should California law or Spanish law apply to the question of who owns the painting? After a lengthy analysis the court determined that Spanish law applies, and that the museum has possessed the painting long enough to have become the owner regardless of the fact that it was sold under duress. So now a case that has already been to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals twice will almost certainly head back a third time. The court concluded its decision by appealing to the parties to “pause, reflect, and consider whether it would be appropriate to work towards a mutually-agreeable resolution of this action, in light of Spain’s acceptance of the Washington Conference Principles and the Terezin Declaration, and, specifically, its commitment to achieve “just and fair solutions” for victims of Nazi persecution.” But it is hard to see why that would happen. Notwithstanding the dictates of the Washington Principles, the Collection has been quite content to resist the claim. Now that it has won, it is hard to imagine it suddenly taking a different view.
Topics: Lilly Cassirer Neubauer, Terezin Declaration, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Rue St. Honoré après-midi êffet de pluie, Jacques Goudstikker, California Code of Civil Procedure § 354.3, Nazi-looted art, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Washington Conference Principles, FSIA, adverse possession, expropriation exception”, Restitution, Marei Von Saher, sovereign immunity, Jakob Schweidwimmer, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 222, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Camille Pissarro, foreign affairs doctrine, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Museums, Baron Hans-Heinrich Thyssen- Bornemisza, 28 U.S.C. § 1605, Welfenschatz
The Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act (HR 4292) passed the House of Representatives yesterday, 388 to 4. Voting against were Reid Ribble (R, WI), Mark Sanford (R, SC), Marlin Stuzman (R, IN), and Justin Amash (R, MI). As discussed here previously, the bill would amend the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1605 (FSIA) to clarify when a cultural object loaned with immunity from seizure pursuant to the Immunity from Seizure Act (IFSA) can also constitute the “commercial activity” element necessary to overcome sovereign immunity and bring a suit in U.S. federal court. Invocation of the FSIA has, since Altmann v. Republic of Austria up through the cases pending against Hungary and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection pending today, become the go-to strategy to seek federal jurisdiction over World War II/Nazi-looted art restitution cases in particular.
Topics: Reid Ribble, Mark Sanford, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Art & Cultural Heritage Law Committee of the A, Marlin Stuzman, Nazi-looted art, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Malevicz v. City of Amsterdam, 22 U.S.C. § 2459, Justin Amash, FSIA, Restitution, HR 4292, World War II, IFSA, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Immunity from Seizure Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1605, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity
Steve Chabot (R-OH) has reintroduced the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act (H.R. 4292), after a previous attempt to amend the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act with regard to the loan of cultural objects failed to become law in 2012. The text of the March 25, 2014 bill is identical to the version that passed in the House in 2012. Its co-sponsors are John Conyers (D-MI) and Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), and it has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
Topics: Bob Goodlatte, Cornelius Gurlitt, Malewicz v. City of Amsterdam, Girolamo Romano, Gurlitt Collection, 22 U.S.C. § 2459, Christ Carrying the Cross Dragged by a Rogue, 517 F.Supp.2d 322, FSIA, Restitution, David Toren, 19 U.S.C. § 1595a, Steve Chabot, Orrin Hatch, House Judiciary Committee, 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(2), 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(3), Senate Bill 2212, World War II, IFSA, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Altmann v. Republic of Austria, Portrait of Wally, John Conyers, Immunity from Seizure Act, Dianne Feinstein Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Federal Republic of Germany, 28 U.S.C. § 1605, H.R. 4292, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity