It has been quite some time since there was occasion to update the dispute between the Chabad Lubavitch movement and Russia over Chabad’s efforts to obtain the return of the library of the movement’s late rabbi Menachem Schneerson and his predecessors (each known in his respective era as the “Rebbe”). There is now a major development. The court has granted the Chabad plaintiffs’ request to turn the daily sanctions that began to accrue in 2013 into an interim judgment, that is, to tally the $50,000 daily fines to date. The U.S. District Court in Washington, DC has done so, and entered a judgment against the Russian Federation, the Russian State Military Archive, the Russian State Library, and the Russian Ministry of Culture and Mass Communication, for a total of $43.7 million. Notably, the judgment will increase automatically by $4.5 million every 90 days if not satisfied; the plaintiffs will not have to return to the court and ask for an amended judgment. Plaintiffs have already begun efforts to identify assets from which that judgment could be collected.
Topics: Latvia, Sberbank, Nazi Germany, Russian State Military Archive, Menachem Schneerson, Russian Ministry of Culture and Mass Communication, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Rebbe, 28 U.S.C. § 1603, Russian Federation, FSIA, Restitution, Russian State Library, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Poland, Chabad Lubavitch, Soviet Union, Museums
Despite refusing to participate in a lawsuit for nearly three years since a judgment that ordered the return to the Chabad Lubavitch movement in Brooklyn of the late Rebbe Menachem Schneerson’s library, the Russian Federation swiftly spoke up when news came of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia’s order yesterday sanctioning and fining the defendants $50,000 per day until they comply with the 2010 judgment. The Washington Post reports today that the U.S. government has declined to comment.
In a case that has tested the principles of how a defiant sovereign defendant can be compelled to comply with a court order, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has taken an emphatic step in an order issued today. The Russian Federation, the Russian Ministry of Culture and Mass Communications, the Russian State Library, and the Russian State Military Archive will be fined collectively $50,000 per day until they comply with a 2010 judgment to return the library of Menachem Schneerson, the late charismatic leader of the worldwide Chabad Lubavitch movement, to the movement in Brooklyn, New York. Whereas the court lacked any power to compel the seizure of the library itself overseas, the plaintiffs will now be armed with a very real financial bludgeon against the defendants that have thumbed their noses at the U.S. courts for more than three years. In any case where the defendant refuses to obey a court order that court has a wide array of tools to compel compliance, but this case has been an awkward example of the limits on a court of law faced with an uncooperative party overseas. Particularly where the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1603 (the FSIA) was the basis for jurisdiction, as it is in so many wartime art restitution cases, and the fact that the 2010 judgment led to a still-ongoing embargo of art and cultural artifact loans to the United States, the decision is a significant one for the realm of art law.
Topics: cultural property, Lativa, Menachem Schneerson, Germany, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Rebbe, 28 U.S.C. § 1603, Bolshevik, the Russian Ministry of Culture and Mass Communica, Russian Federation, the Russian State Library, FSIA, Restitution, the Russian State Military Archive, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Agudas Chasei Chabad, Poland, Russian Revolution, Soviet Union, Immunity from Seizure Act