Art Law Report

$43.7 Million Interim Judgment Entered Against Russia for Refusal to Restitute Chabad Library

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on September 15, 2015 at 6:05 AM

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.

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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

Supreme Court Declines to Hear Norton Simon Intermediate Appeal, Von Saher Claim Returns to Trial Court

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on January 21, 2015 at 7:30 AM

The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena’s efforts to bring an end to the claim by Marei von Saher to Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Adam and Eve failed yesterday, as the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the museum’s appeal from the decision last year by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that restored the claims. The Supreme Court denied what is called a writ of certiorari, which is a discretionary appeal from a lower court. The high Court can accept cases on appeal from final judgments (as would be the case had the museum prevailed) or, as here, what are called interlocutory appeals—appeals of matters still in process. The Ninth Circuit decision revived Von Saher’s case and sent them back to the District Court for litigation, and the Norton Simon’s petition asked the Supreme Court to intervene and put an end to it. The overwhelming proportion of certiorari petitions are denied, interlocutory appeals even more so (courts favor hearing appeals of final judgments to avoid piecemeal adjudications). This is the second certiorari petition in the case: in 2011, Von Saher was on the losing end of a petition when her case had been dismissed under an earlier version of California’s statute of limitations.

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Topics: Legislation, Dutch Secretary for Education Culture and Science, Norton Simon Museum, Alois Miedl, Lilly Cassirer, Norton Simon Art Foundation, Rue Saint-Honoré après-midi effet de pluie, Jacques Goudstikker, George Stroganoff-Scherbatoff, Hermann Goring, Restitution, Marei Von Saher, Jr., World War II, act of state doctrine, Cassirer v. Kingdom of Spain, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Camille Pissarro, Soviet Union, foreign affairs doctrine, California Section 354.3 of Code of Civil Procedur, Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art

"Fight Over Paintings Looted by Nazis May Finally Get Trial Thanks to 9th Cir." Published by Bloomberg BNA

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on June 18, 2014 at 6:50 AM

I am quoted at length in an article about the recent Von Saher decision: "Fight Over Paintings Looted by Nazis May Finally Get Trial Thanks to 9th Cir." by Nicholas Datlowe, published by Bloomberg BNA’s United States Law Week. The article covers the overall background and importance of the decision, and has quotes from the plaintiffs’ attorneys who now can return to the trial court to try to press their claim (and respond to the likely forthcoming act of state defenses, as discussed here previously). It also analyzes the dissent in the June 6, 2014 opinion by Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw, who would have upheld the trial court dismissal under the foreign affairs doctrine.

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Topics: Bloomberg BNA, 82 U.S.L.W. 1944, Dutch Secretary for Education Culture and Science, Norton Simon Museum, Alois Miedl, Lilly Cassirer, Norton Simon Art Foundation, Rue Saint-Honoré après-midi effet de pluie, Jacques Goudstikker, Howard N. Spiegler, Fred Anthony Rowley, George Stroganoff-Scherbatoff, Hermann Goring, Harry Pregerson, Restitution, Marei Von Saher, Jr., World War II, act of state doctrine, Cassirer v. Kingdom of Spain, United States Law Week, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Camille Pissarro, Dorothy Wright Nelson, http://www.bna.com., The Bureau of National Affairs Inc., Kim McLane Wardlaw, Soviet Union, foreign affairs doctrine, California Section 354.3 of Code of Civil Procedur, Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art

Restitution Claims for Cranach Paintings in the Norton Simon Museum Revived by Ninth Circuit, Case Now Hinges on Act of State Doctrine

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on June 9, 2014 at 1:21 AM

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit restored on June 6, 2014 the claims by Marei von Saher against the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena for the paintings Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach the Elder. The appeals court followed its decision in Cassirer v. Kingdom of Spain in December of last year, concerning the painting Rue Saint-Honoré, après-midi, effet de pluie by Camille Pissarro that was owned at one time by Lilly Cassirer, a Jewish collector who fled Germany in 1939. While the panel of judges vacated the Von Saher dismissal that was premised on the idea that California’s revised statute of limitations was unconstitutional (instead finding that the law and claims withstand that scrutiny), the divided 2-1 panel sent the case back to the district court to determine if the claims were nonetheless barred under the “act of state doctrine”. One dissenting judge would have upheld the dismissal on the grounds that the case would call into question Von Saher’s compensation from the Dutch government such that that would violate the foreign affairs doctrine. That split on the act of state doctrine partially answers the lingering question of why Von Saher, argued the same day as Cassirer concerning the same California law, had gone undecided six months after Cassirer was resolved.

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Topics: Dutch Secretary for Education Culture and Science, Norton Simon Museum, Alois Miedl, Lilly Cassirer, Norton Simon Art Foundation, Rue Saint-Honoré après-midi effet de pluie, Jacques Goudstikker, Howard N. Spiegler, Fred Anthony Rowley, George Stroganoff-Scherbatoff, Hermann Goring, Harry Pregerson, Restitution, Marei Von Saher, Jr., World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, act of state doctrine, Cassirer v. Kingdom of Spain, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Camille Pissarro, Dorothy Wright Nelson, http://www.bna.com., Kim McLane Wardlaw, Soviet Union, foreign affairs doctrine, California Section 354.3 of Code of Civil Procedur, Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art

Limbach Advisory Commission Recommends Against German Restitution of “Guelph Treasure,” Focuses on Terms of 1929 Agreement for Intended Sale

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 26, 2014 at 11:54 AM

One of the issues exposed and exacerbated by the ongoing Gurlitt collection stalemate is the question of Germany’s restitution procedures with respect to art. As the Bavarian legislative proposal to abolish the statute of limitations for claims against bad-faith acquirers is considered by the Bundestag, the “German Advisory Commission for the Return of Cultural Property Seized as a Result of Nazi Persecution, Especially Jewish Property” has issued a decision over what has become known as the “Guelph Treasure” (Welfenschatz) in the collection of the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz (SPK), the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation. The March 20, 2014 opinion (available, so far as I know, only in German at this point at www.lostart.de) underscores the issues around claims of sales under duress, and the appropriate present-day procedural remedy. Readers should also brush up on their medieval German history to keep up.

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Topics: Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV, German Supreme Commercial Court, Holy Roman Empire, Guelph Treasure, Bundeshandelsgericht, German Supreme Constitutional Court, Z.M. Hackenbroch, Karl Blechen, Duchy of Brunswick and Lüneburg, Niedersachsen, Karl Ernst Baumann, Act of State, Kingdom of Hanover. Königreich Hannover, Dr Alexander Lewin, Prussia, Lower Saxony, Anselm Feuerbach, Gurlitt Collection, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Preussen, Hans Sachs, German Advisory Commission for the Return of Cultu, Hessen, Fogg Art Museum, Congress of Vienna, Julius and Clara Freund, Kurhannover, Dresdner Bank, Hermann Goring, Austrian Supreme Court, Johann J. August von der Embde, House of Welf, Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Wilhelm Leibl, Portrait of Amalie Zuckerkandl, Braunschweig-Lüneburg, Harvard, Portrait der Familie von Dithfurth, Gurlitt, Restitution, George I, J.S. Goldschmidt, World War II, Peasant Girl without a Hat and with a White Headcl, Queen Victoria, Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Art Institute of Chicago, Kurfürsten, Jutta Limbach, www.lostart.de, Soviet Union, Gustav Klimt, Bundesverfassungsgericht, Welfenschatz, Limbach Commission, I. Rosenbaum, Electors

The Gurlitt Counteroffensive Continues: Complaint Filed for Return of Paintings

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on February 19, 2014 at 7:12 AM

According to multiple news reports and his attorneys, Cornelius Gurlitt has filed a complaint for the return of the paintings seized in 2012 by the Augsburg prosecutor. Copies are not yet available, but the Gurlitt PR website www.Gurlitt.info" has a release that states as follows (thus far only in German). Stay tuned for developments if and when the document becomes available.

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Topics: Schwabinger Kunstfund, Complaint, Nazi stolen art, Hannes Hartung, Hildebrand Gurlitt, Gurlitt Info, www.Gurlitt.Info, Augsburg, Germany, Tido Park, Gurlitt Collection, Beschwerde, Entartete Kunst, Gurlitt Facts, Beutekunst, Gurlitt, Restitution, Statute of Limitations, World War II, Derek Setz, degenerate art, Staatsanwalt, Strafprozessordnung (StPO) Paragraph 304, Soviet Union, Raubkunst, Verjährung, Münchner Kunstfund

Chabad Asks for Interim Judgment of $14.75 Million Against Russia for Defiance of Order to Return Rebbe's Library

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on January 29, 2014 at 12:18 PM

It has been a year since the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia instituted a fine of $50,000 per day against the Russian Federation, the Russian Ministry of Culture and Mass Communications, the Russian State Library, and the Russian State Military Archive 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. And in that year, the Russian defendants have neither obeyed the original judgment, nor paid the fine. The plaintiffs have now returned to court asking for an interim money judgment for the cumulative amount—$14,750,000—a judgment that could in theory be executed on other assets.

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Topics: Russian art embargo, Russian State Military Archive, Germany, Rebbe, 28 U.S.C. § 1603, 1939, the Russian Ministry of Culture and Mass Communica, Russian Federation, the Russian State Library, FSIA, Agudas Chasei Chabad, Soviet Union, Chabad

Dispute of Fact or Statement of Foreign Policy? Ninth Circuit Takes up the Question of U.S. Courts’ Role in Assessing Foreign Art Restitution Procedures

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on August 27, 2013 at 5:38 AM

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard oral argument last week in two high-profile World War II art restitution claims, Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art, and Cassirer v. Kingdom of Spain. The Supreme Court’s previous decision not to hear earlier appeals of those cases with regard to statutes of limitations has had a broad effect for years now, and last year's dismissal was widely observed. At its core, the Von Saher case poses a direct question: is a claim that alleges procedural unfairness with the restitution claims process in another country after World War II (i.e., the Netherlands) so wrapped up in the State Department’s foreign policy apparatus that courts cannot intervene (requiring dismissal at the outset of the case), or is that fairness a question of fact that entitles the plaintiff to survive the threshold analysis and proceed to discovery or a trial? Although comments from the bench are never a predictor of the results, the spirited argument underscored the importance of the two cases to the future of restitution claims in federal courts, and whether the restitution question is incompatible with the separation of powers in the U.S. government.

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Topics: Dutch Secretary for Education Culture and Science, Norton Simon Museum, Alois Miedl, Lilly Cassirer, Norton Simon Art Foundation, Rue Saint-Honoré après-midi effet de pluie, Jacques Goudstikker, Howard N. Spiegler, Fred Anthony Rowley, George Stroganoff-Scherbatoff, Hermann Goring, Harry Pregerson, Marei Von Saher, Jr., Cassirer v. Kingdom of Spain, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Camille Pissarro, Dorothy Wright Nelson, Kim McLane Wardlaw, Soviet Union, California Section 354.3 of Code of Civil Procedur, Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art

Does The Art World Have a Russia Problem?

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on August 7, 2013 at 11:15 AM

Several overlapping issues in recent months have turned what was an awkward elephant in the room into a major issue facing the art world today. Namely: the increasing role that Russia is playing in restitution, loans and exhibition controversies has aggregated to Vladimir Putin an extraordinary amount of influence over these major international legal issues. Combined with the Edward Snowden controversy (and the bizarre story of Putin’s theft of Robert Kraft’s New England Patriots Super Bowl ring), it seems quite clear that Putin enjoys that spotlight. That has not proven to be good news for the art world.

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Topics: Nazi Germany, Russia, Germany, WWII, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Red Army, Edward Snowden, FSIA, Restitution, New England Patriots, Super Bowl, Vladimir Putin, Robert Kraft, Soviet Union

Russia Sanctioned $50,000 per day for Defiance of Chabad Library Judgment that Led to Art and Cultural Loan Embargo

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on January 16, 2013 at 10:45 AM

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.

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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

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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.

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