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US Supreme Court to Hear Two Holocaust-Related Cases on December 7th

Seventy-five years after the end of WWII, the US Supreme Court will hear two Holocaust-related cases on December 7, 2020:

Republic of Hungary v. Simon No. 18-1447:

JNS reports that this case concerns “14 Holocaust survivors—four of whom are naturalized U.S. citizens—suing the Hungarian government and the government-owned railroad for their role in transporting Jews to death camps. They are seeking restitution for the property that was confiscated by the government at that time.”

Question Presented :

May the district court abstain from exercising jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act for reasons of international comity, where former Hungarian nationals have sued the nation of Hungary to recover the value of property lost in Hungary during World War II, and where the plaintiffs made no attempt to exhaust local Hungarian remedies?


Federal Republic of Germany v. Philipp, No. 19-351:

This case concerns an art collection known as the “Guelph Treasure” (or “Welfenschatz”) should be returned to the heirs of four Jewish art dealers in Germany. The collection is reported to be worth about $250 million. See also, Washington Post story.

Questions Presented

(1) Whether the “expropriation exception” of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which abrogates foreign sovereign immunity when “rights in property taken in violation of international law are in issue,” provides jurisdiction over claims that a foreign sovereign has violated international human-rights law when taking property from its own national within its own borders, even though such claims do not implicate the established international law governing states’ responsibility for takings of property; and

(2) whether the doctrine of international comity is unavailable in cases against foreign sovereigns, even in cases of considerable historical and political significance to the foreign sovereign, and even when the foreign nation has a domestic framework for addressing the claims.

Both cases raise significant procedural issues that could prevent the Court from reaching the substance of the claims. These cases are a long way from the Nuremberg War Crimes trials.

The SCOTUSblog has a good summation of the two cases.