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Nazi Stolen Pissarro Work at Core of New SCOTUS Procedure Case

Sept. 30, 2021, 2:24 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to sort out a procedural issue that will dictate whether the heirs of a Holocaust survivor can regain a painting by French impressionist Camille Pissarro that was stolen by the Nazis in 1939.

The federal courts of appeal are split over whether state or federal law governs claims brought under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which waives sovereign immunity for foreign entities in certain cases.

Here, the 1897 painting—Rue Saint-Honoré, Afternoon, Rain Effect—is currently on display in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, a Spanish state museum in Madrid.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled against the heirs, saying that federal law called for the application of Spanish law, which allows the holder of stolen property to obtain title through the doctrine of adverse possession.

The heirs claim California law, which never allows the holder of stolen property to obtain good title, applies.

The justices Thursday agreed to take up the case.

The justices last term turned away other groups of Holocaust victims seeking property lost during World War II, ruling that they couldn’t press their claims against Hungary and Germany in U.S. courts just yet.

The case is Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation, U.S., No. 20-1566.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson in Washington at krobinson@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com