Pissarro painting stolen by Nazis at center of Supreme Court arguments

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The proceeding, filed in federal court in California, is now being filed in the Supreme Court after nearly 17 years of proceedings.

The descendants of Jewish Holocaust survivors were forced to hand over to the Nazis by their families, eventually seeking the return of the paintings in the museum in Madrid, Spain.

The work of art in the center of the case is a 1897 French Impressionist work by the famous painter Camille Pissarro, entitled “Rail Saint-Honore, Afternoon, The Impact of Rain”.

It was owned by the German Cassirer family until 1939, when Lily Cassirer Neubauer was forced to hand it over to the Nazis to obtain the exit visa needed to escape the country. Nazi art dealers confiscated paintings in exchange for $ 360 in an account that Neubauer had no access to. Over the next few decades, a series of sales and transactions brought the paintings to California, then to a gallery in New York, from which Swiss collectors bought and eventually many of his collections, including paintings. Was sold to the Foundation. , He was founded with the Spanish government.

The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, a lawyer at the Arts Foundation, has asked the Supreme Court to set up a “fair and balanced way” for federal courts to tackle this type of case, as the legal tests applicable to each state vary. I requested. About the place where the family caused the incident.

“Welcome to the United States. That’s how the court works,” Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts told Foundation lawyer Tadeus Stauber. “And the laws that apply to US citizens migrating from New York to Ohio will also change.”

The proceeding was filed by Claude Cassirer, grandson of Lily Cassirer Neubauer, who retired in California. He filed a proceeding in 2005 after learning that the painting was on display at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum after the Foundation refused other efforts to return the painting.

The Supreme Court dispute is whether federal courts apply state or foreign law by imposing restrictions on foreign entities under the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act when they are not affected by the proceedings. Decide how to decide.

The Cassirer family filed a lawsuit in Claude’s children after Claude’s death in 2010, but under California law, they were legitimately in possession of the painting, depending on how the artwork was obtained. Claims to be a person. However, the lower court instead led a legal test to apply Spanish law, which is more burdensome to the victims, to prove that the Foundation should have known that the painting was stolen. Was used.

During oral arguments, Cassirer’s lawyer, David Boyes, who attended a remote hearing, harshly asked whether federal law required lower courts to treat the case differently. Faced with.

The US Secretary of State’s office, represented by Masha Hansford, also attended the hearing to discuss court friends in favor of the Cassirer family.

The discussion focuses on the highly technical aspects of the case regarding the legal tests that federal courts should use in proceedings against foreign countries and their means of deciding which law to apply. I did. The painting itself was referred to by the judge only once.

“I think everyone can agree that this is a beautiful painting,” said Judge Stephen Breyer.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor participated in oral arguments over the phone, as has been the norm for the past few weeks.

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