Thursday, August 05, 2010

U.S. Court Orders Russia To Return Book Collection To Jewish Group

In Agudas Chasidei Chabad of United States v. Russian Federation, (D DC, July 30, 2010), the DC federal district court found that plaintiff had presented a legally sufficient prima facie case and entered a default judgment against the Russian Federation ordering it to return two collections of valuable religious books and manuscripts (the Library and the Archive) to Chabad. The court concluded that the expropriation of both collections was discriminatory. The Archive was taken by the Soviet Army in World War II from the Nazis who had expropriated it. The court found three separate takings over time of the Library-- one during the Russian Revolution, one when the Soviet government failed to return the books, and a third in 1992 when the Russian Federation closed all legal avenues for retrieval of the collection. Russia had earlier withdrawn from participating further in the litigation, arguing that the court lacked jurisdiction over it and indicating it would not consider any court orders binding on it. The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (28 USC 1608(e)) still requires that a claimant establish its right to relief before a default judgment can be entered. The court's order (full text) requires defendants to deliver the collections to the U.S. embassy in Moscow or to a destination of plaintiff's choosing. A press release from Bingham McCutchen LLP that represented plaintiffs reported on the decision. (See prior related posting.)