In Donn Zaretsky's regular column, "Art Law and Policy", the attorney asks "When is a citizen not a citizen for purposes of foreign sovereign immunity?" in the Fall 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime.
Mr. Zaretsky tries to answer that question in his column:
The case that The New York Times has called “the world’s largest unresolved Holocaust art claim” may provide an answer to that question. In de Csepel v. Republic Of Hungary (10-cv-1261), heirs of the Hungarian banker Baron Mor Lipot Herzog sued in United States District Court in Washington seeking the return of a collection worth more than $100 million. Since the suit is against the Republic of Hungary (and several of its state-run museums, where much of the collection still hangs), the question of foreign sovereign immunity naturally presents itself. The plaintiffs say the doctrine doesn’t apply because the works were taken in violation of international law -- even though it is well-established that a state’s taking of the property of its own citizens cannot violate international law. In a recent decision (issued September 1, 2011), the District Court agreed.
Donn Zaretsky is an art law specialist at the firm John Silberman Associates and a leading name in the art law corner of the legal blogosphere. Zaretsky publishes the Art Law Blog at and is frequently cited by journalists for his commentary on art-related legal matters.
You may read Mr. Zaretsky's opinion in ARCA's publication, The Journal of Art Crime, by subscribing here.