Friday, February 26, 2021

On October 29, the legal team at Gibson Dunn filed an amicus brief on behalf of members of the House of Representatives in support of respondents in two cases that will determine whether foreign sovereigns and their instrumentalities can be held accountable in United States courts for the genocidal seizure of property during the Holocaust. An amicus brief literally means “friend of the court,” and is a party or organization interested in an issue that files a brief or participates in the argument in a case in which that party or organization is not one of the litigants. In its brief, Gibson Dunn explained that allowing jurisdiction over genocidal takings is consistent with a string of legislation aimed at facilitating redress for Nazi crimes.

Signatories to the brief include a bipartisan coalition of House members, including Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.-5), Rep. Jim Banks (R-In.), Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.) and Rep. Deborah Wasserman Schultz (D-Fl.).

One case was brought by heirs of Frankfurt-based Jewish art dealers who were coerced into a forced sale of prized medieval relics to the Nazis in 1935. The heirs brought suit against Germany and the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation established by German federal law for the return of the relics. The other case was brought by 14 Holocaust survivors against Hungary and its state-owned railway company, seeking compensation for the seizure of their property as they boarded cattle cars to Auschwitz.

The D.C. Circuit decided in both cases that jurisdiction was proper. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in both cases on December 7.

In addition to the amicus brief, a group of rabbis, including many from local communities, this week sent a letter to Emily Haber, German Ambassador to the United States since 2018, requesting that Germany clarify certain points in one of the lawsuits, to which it is a party, prior to oral arguments next month.

Gibson Dunn litigation partner Akiva Shapiro, of Bergenfield, is counsel of record on the amicus brief.