Showing posts with label United States Supreme Court. Show all posts
Showing posts with label United States Supreme Court. Show all posts

February 2, 2020

Supreme Court Asked to Consider Legal Status of Famous Picasso Painting

A petition for writ of certiorari has been filed asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a ruling dismissing a case against New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art for the return of a Pablo Picasso masterwork, “The Actor,” created around 1904-05.

Jewish refugee Paul Leffmann sold the painting under duress in 1938, because of Nazi and Fascist persecution, when he and his wife Alice, having already escaped Germany, sought to flee a fast-Nazifying Italy. The purchasers were art dealer Hugo Perls and Pablo Picasso’s own dealer Paul Rosenberg, a French art dealer who represented Picasso, Georges Braque and Henri Matisse.

Not satisfied with an appellate court decision affirming the dismissal of the family’s claim to the painting as having been filed too late, Laurel Zuckerman, Paul Leffmann's great grand-niece, through her attorneys, has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear her case.  The Supreme Court grants around 100 of the 7,000+ petitions it gets each year, focusing on cases of national significance,or  those which might harmonize conflicting decisions in the federal Circuit courts. 

According to Zuckerman’s petition, her case raises an issue of nationwide importance concerning the HEAR Act: whether, “despite the introduction of a nationwide statute of limitations designed to revive Holocaust-era restitution claims,” the Act still allows the laws of each of the 50 states to declare a claim untimely, and to thereby put up additional roadblocks to the very Holocaust era claims Congress encouraged under the HEAR Act. 

Zuckerman, representing the estate of Alice Leffmann, had sued the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2016, asserting in court papers that the museum does not hold good title to the painting because the businessman was forced to sell this artwork at a low price, under pressure, in order to finance their flight from Italy given the actions of the Nazi-allied Mussolini-led government and anti-jewish climate at the time in Western Europe.  The Nazis had already stripped the Leffmans of their home and business. Having lost in the district court, the case was then brought up on appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.

The appellate court agreed that the case was properly dismissed. 

The appellate court's ruling noted that the federal Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act of 2016 (known as the HEAR Act), designed to help facilitate the recovery of art and other prized possessions unlawfully lost because of Nazi persecution, needs to provide “some measure of justice, even if incomplete,” to the victims of Nazi persecution and their heirs.  However, the court sided with the New York museum stating that it would be unfair for the Metropolitan to relinquish the Picasso, given the "unreasonable" delay in demanding its return.  The appellate court noted: "This is not a case where the identity of the buyer was unknown to the seller or the lost property was difficult to locate." 

The cert petition to the U.S. Supreme Court raises two challenges to the appellate court ruling. First, “whether the nonstatutory defense of laches may bar an action to recover artwork lost because of Nazi persecution, where that action has been brought within the statute of limitations prescribed by Congress” in the HEAR Act. And second, whether a case can be dismissed so early without a factual exploration of the laches defense urging undue delay raised by the Museum. 

Zuckerman is represented by Mary- Christine SUNGAILA, Will Feldman, and Marco Pulido at Haynes and Boone, LLP, in the case before the Supreme Court.  Zuckerman was represented in the trial court and continues to be represented on appeal by Lawrence Kaye, Howard Spiegler, Ross Hirsch, and Yael Weitz of Herrick, Feinstein LLP.

February 22, 2018

US Supreme Court ruling on the Persepolis fortification texts.

Image Credit:  the Persepolis
Fortification Archive Project
University of Chicago
Bringing an end to a lawsuit brought two decades ago, the United States Supreme Court has ruled 8 to 0 that the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute will retain the Persepolis Fortification Archive on loan from Iran since 1936.  The highest Federal court in the United States, with powers of judicial review, ruled that the objects in dispute cannot be seized to satisfy a $71.5 million court judgment against the government of Iran as compensation for a 1997 shopping mall bombing carried out by Hamas in Israel, which killed five people and wounded nearly 200. 

In 1933 the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute discovered the Persepolis Fortification tablets during excavations.   The ancient objects which make up the archive are believed to be the richest, most consequential source of information about public life religion, art, society and languages dating from the Achaemenid Persian Empire. Given their significance, they have been studied by professors and scholars continuously since their discovery.

The Supreme Court judges based their ruling on a determination of what types of assets are immune from seizure under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976.  Under the FSIA a United States law, codified at Title 28, §§ 1330, 1332, 1391(f), 1441(d), and 1602–1611 of the United States Code, limitations are established as to whether a foreign sovereign nation (or its political subdivisions, agencies, or instrumentalities) may be sued in U.S. courts—federal or state.

Their ruling can be found here.

For more information on the archive please see the blog by the Persepolis Fortification Archive project based at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago here