Art Law Report Header-1

Looted Art Legislation—HEAR Act and Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Clarification Act Set to Become Law

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on December 12, 2016 at 2:40 PM

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).

Read More

Topics: Legislation, 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

HEAR Act: Senate Judiciary Committee Considers Nazi-Looted Art Statute of Limitations Bill

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on June 9, 2016 at 9:19 AM

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing this week (video available here) on the Holocaust Art Recovery Act (the “HEAR Act”) that drew welcome attention to the ongoing challenges to the restitution of Nazi-looted art. We were skeptical about the bill’s chances for passage when it was proposed for largely structural reasons: it is the summer before a Presidential election, which is a time when things rarely get done in Washington. Yet it is undeniable that with its bipartisan sponsors Richard Blumenthal, Charles Schumer, Ted Cruz, and John Cornyn—strange political bedfellows under any circumstance—the hearing was an open and constructive discussion that showcased real momentum towards passage. Senator Chuck Grassley’s expediting of the hearing is also a sign that there may be a vote soon. This is important, because recent bills to amend the FSIA as to looted art claims, for example, have never even had a hearing in the Judiciary Committee, let alone gotten a vote (they did pass the House first). Yesterday’s hearing definitely moves the bill into a different category with regard to its prospects. The President has not made any comments on it—yet.

Read More

Topics: Legislation, Nazi-looted art, Restitution, Statute of Limitations, Charles Schumer, John Cornyn, Richard Blumenthal, Ted Cruz

HEAR Act Introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz to Create Federal Standard for Holocaust Art Claims

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on April 9, 2016 at 5:54 AM

Among the many challenges that litigants over Nazi-looted art face in the United States is a lack of uniformity.  Statutes of limitations vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and interpretations of jurisdictional laws like the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act differ from one Court of Appeals to another.  This is particularly challenging in the context of the Washington Conference on Nazi Looted Art of 1998 because private disputes are where the issue has meaning in the United States.  There is no national commission to address potentially looted art in public possession like those in Austria, Germany, or the Netherlands (however well or poorly some of those commissions perform) because there is very little art in national ownership about which the federal government has any power to decide.  Thus, in assessing U.S. compliance with the Washington Principles, it is often left to private litigants to argue about what the Principles mean in individual disputes.  Happily, appellate courts have begun to reject consistently the denialist defenses of foreign countries that wish to keep stolen art just because they say so, holding that the Washington Principles support the ability of heirs to pursue claims.  Yet the uneven landscape is still daunting.

A new bill introduced this week would address that, though its chances of passage into law in a contentious election season are hard to be optimistic about. 

Read More

Topics: Legislation, Nazi-looted art, Restitution, World War II, Charles Schumer, John Cornyn, Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act, Richard Blumenthal, HEAR Act, Ted Cruz

Bi-Partisan Sponsors for Senate Bill 2212 Sign On

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on December 13, 2012 at 3:53 AM

Bi-partisan momentum appears to be gathering for Senate Bill 2212, the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act (a bill that would clarify an exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act in respect to the loan of cultural artifacts). After Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) signed on as a co-sponsor on November 27, 2012, others have followed. In addition to its original co-sponsors Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the bill has since gained the co-sponsorship of John Cornyn (R-TX) on December 3, 2012; Thomas Coburn (R-OK) on December 11, 2012; and Chris Coons (D-DE) on December 12, 2012.

Read More

Topics: Legislation, Dianne Feinstein, Thomas Coburn, Chris Coons, Restitution, Orrin Hatch, Senate Bill 2212, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, S.B. 2212, Charles Schumer, John Cornyn, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity

Charles Schumer’s Co-Sponsorship of Senate Bill 2212 Could Signal Movement

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 29, 2012 at 3:59 AM

The federal register this week noted the addition on November 27, 2012 of Charles Schumer, New York’s senior Senator, as a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 2212, the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act, the proposed amendment to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act that would exempt from the FSIA the loan of certain cultural objects as a basis to invoke U.S. federal court jurisdiction. The bill has already been passed by the House of Representatives. After passage in march and referral to the Senate Judiciary Committee (on which it should be noted, Schumer sits), their has been no news of the bill’s progress.

Read More

Topics: Legislation, the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immun, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, FSIA, Senate Bill 2212, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Charles Schumer, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity, Art Law Report

Sullivan logo

About the Blog

The Art Law Report provides timely updates and commentary on legal issues in the museum and visual arts communities. It is authored by Nicholas M. O'Donnell, partner in our Art & Museum Law Practice.

The material on this site is for general information only and is not legal advice. No liability is accepted for any loss or damage which may result from reliance on it. Always consult a qualified lawyer about a specific legal problem.

Meet the Editor

Subscribe to Blog

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all