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The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a setback to a bid by the heirs of Jewish art dealers to win restitution from Germany in American courts for what they called a coerced sale forced by the former Nazi government in 1935 of a collection of medieval religious art.
In a 9-0 ruling, the justices decided that the lawsuit could not proceed under a U.S. law called the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act that limits the jurisdiction of American courts in claims against foreign governments.
“An American court has thrown out a lawsuit against a German museum foundation over a medieval treasure trove that was filed by heirs of Nazi-era Jewish art dealers, saying that the US lacked jurisdiction to hear such a lawsuit,” The Guardian reported.
“The foundation that oversees Berlin’s museums said in a statement on Tuesday that the US district court for the District of Columbia last week granted the foundation’s motion to dismiss the 2015 restitution lawsuit that was brought against it, bringing the case to an end in the US, absent an appeal by the plaintiff. The Welfenschatz, or Guelph Treasure, was at the center of a long-running ownership dispute, includes silver and gold crucifixes, altars, intricate silverwork, and other relics,” the outlet added.
Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts said that law does not cover what a foreign country does to property belonging to its own citizens within its own borders.
“As a nation, we would be surprised – and might even initiate reciprocal action – if a court in Germany adjudicated claims by Americans that they were entitled to hundreds of millions of dollars because of human rights violations committed by the United States government years ago,” Roberts wrote.
The case concerns a collection of ecclesiastical relics known as the Welfenschatz that Jewish art dealers sold.
The collection, dating primarily from the 11th to 15th centuries, includes gilded crosses and busts of saints. Pieces from the collection are on display at a museum in Berlin. The heirs sued Germany and the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which oversees museums in Berlin, in 2015 in a U.S. federal court, seeking the collection’s return of $250 million.
The ruling rejected the argument by the heirs that Germany was not immune from their lawsuit under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act because the coerced sale was an act of genocide, in violation of international law.
Last week, the Supreme Court vacated a Massachusetts gun control law after delivering one of its most significant pro-Second Amendment decisions back in June by striking down New York’s concealed carry law as unconstitutionally restrictive.
The Massachusetts case — Morin v. Lyver — concerned the plaintiff being denied a new firearm license because he had two out-of-state misdemeanor convictions for weapons possession. Massachusetts law places severe restrictions on the possession and purchase of firearms, including the ability to obtain a license to possess handguns, if convicted of nonviolent misdemeanors,” the New York Post reported.
But this major case wasn’t the high court’s only Second Amendment ruling, and in fact, SCOTUS likely opened the door to much of the expected new litigation.
“The Supreme Court said that gun cases involving restrictions in Hawaii, California, New Jersey, and Maryland deserve a new look following its major decision in a gun case last week,” the Western Journal reported Thursday.
“In light of last week’s ruling — which said that Americans have a right to carry a gun outside the home — lower courts should take another look at several cases that had been awaiting action by the high court, the court said. Those cases include ones about high-capacity magazines, an assault weapons ban and a state law that limits who can carry a gun outside the home,” the outlet reported, noting that by sending the cases back to lower courts, these laws will now get a second look under the new standard applied in Thomas’ majority decision.
The outlet added:
One of the cases the justices sent back to a lower court Thursday involved a Hawaii statute similar to New York’s. In that case, a panel of 11 judges on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled in 2021 that the right to “keep and bear arms” in the Constitution’s Second Amendment “does not guarantee an unfettered, general right to openly carry arms in public for individual self-defense.” But the high court said in its latest gun case that the Constitution protects “an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.” A lower court will now have to revisit the Hawaii ruling.
SCOTUS also instructed federal appeals courts to take a new look at laws in California and New Jersey that put limits on the number of rounds a magazine can hold.