Last week, Cultural Heritage Partners filed an amicus brief on behalf of four current and former members of Congress in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The brief, which was prepared by Tom Kline, Eden Burgess, and Jennifer Morris, urges the Ninth Circuit to ensure that federal courts under its umbrella properly interpret and implement U.S. law and policy concerning Nazi-looted art. At issue is a decade-long restitution dispute in the Ninth Circuit involving a pair of Cranach paintings now hanging in the Norton Simon Museum at Pasadena. Read the brief as filed here.
The case, Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art at Pasadena and Norton Simon Art Foundation, involves a Jewish art dealer’s forced sale of the panels to notorious art thief Hermann Göring in 1940, when Nazi troops invaded the Netherlands. Although nobody disputes that Göring looted the paintings from the dealer, Jacques Goudstikker, the controversy surrounds what happened next. In a surprising decision that flies in the face of longstanding U.S. law and policy, the district court ruled that Göring legally acquired title to the Cranachs during this forced sale – thus rendering the Norton Simon’s chain of title legitimate.
Representatives Eliot Engel and Jerry Nadler, along with Former Representatives Mel Levine and Robert Wexler, have asked the Ninth Circuit to revisit the district court’s ill-considered decision, which disregards the long and important history of U.S. Holocaust restitution policy. As CHP partner Tom Kline remarked, “Cultural Heritage Partners is pleased to have the honor and responsibility to represent Congressional Representatives Engel and Nadler and former Representatives Levine and Wexler as friends of the court in briefing the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in the von Saher case. Our clients in this matter deeply appreciate the importance of U.S. policy regarding claims by Holocaust victims and their heirs for losses incurred by Nazi art looting. In providing their friend of the court brief, they want to help ensure that art looting victims receive a just and fair resolution of their claims based on the merits, not on legal technicalities.” The brief thus underscores the Representatives’ commitment to more than seven decades’ worth of U.S. law and policy regarding Nazi-era art, which has a simple principle at its core: looted objects should be returned to the victims from whom they were taken.
CHP undertook this representation on a pro bono basis, as a statement of the firm’s ongoing commitment to supporting Holocaust victims and their heirs.
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Cultural Heritage Partners, PLLC, is a law, policy, and strategy firm dedicated exclusively to serving the cultural heritage sector. The first of its kind in the United States, the firm supports clients in a wide range of matters, including art and antiquities collections and transactions; cultural heritage protection; museum governance; tribal relations; advocacy and government affairs; and business and organizational strategy.