S. 2763, the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act – Reuniting Victims with Their Lost Heritage
According to govtrack, the bill has a 2% chance of being enacted:
This bill was assigned to a congressional committee on April 7, 2016, which will consider it before possibly sending it on to the House or Senate as a whole.
Senior Senator from Texas
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Last Updated: Apr 7, 2016
Length: 8 pages
Last Updated: Apr 7, 2016
Length: 8 pages
According to CRS:
The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress.
4/7/2016--Introduced. Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act of 2016
This bill allows civil claims or causes of action to recover artwork or other cultural property unlawfully lost because of persecution during the Nazi era, or for damages for the taking or detaining of such artwork or cultural property, to be commenced within six years after the claimant's actual discovery of: (1) the identity and location of the artwork or cultural property, and (2) information or facts sufficient to indicate that the claimant has a claim for a possessory interest in the artwork or cultural property that was unlawfully lost.
Such statutory limitation period of six years after actual discovery preempts any other statutes of limitation or defenses relating to the passage of time.
The term: (1) "persecution during the Nazi era" means persecution by the Nazis or their allies between January 1, 1933, and December 31, 1945, that was based on race, ethnicity, or religion; and (2) "unlawfully lost" includes any theft, seizure, forced sale, sale under duress, or other loss of an artwork or cultural property that would not have occurred absent such persecution.
This Act applies to claims or actions that are pending on the date of enactment of this Act or filed after its enactment but before 2027. Such claims or actions may include those: (1) that were dismissed before enactment of this Act based on the expiration of a federal or state statute of limitations, laches, or any other defense at law or equity relating to the passage of time; and (2) in which final judgment has not been entered.
Text of the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act of 2016
The text of the bill below is as of Apr 7, 2016 (Introduced).
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
April 7, 2016
Mr. Cornyn (for himself, Mr. Cruz, Mr. Schumer, and Mr. Blumenthal) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary
To provide the victims of Holocaust-era persecution and their heirs a fair opportunity to recover works of art confiscated or misappropriated by the Nazis.
This Act may be cited as the
Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act of 2016.
Congress finds the following:
It is estimated that the Nazis confiscated or otherwise misappropriated as many as 650,000 works of art throughout Europe as part of their genocidal campaign against the Jewish people and other persecuted groups. This has been described as the
greatest displacement of art in human history.
Following World War II, the United States and its allies attempted to return the stolen artworks to their countries of origin. Despite these efforts, many works of art were never reunited with their owners. Some of the art has since been discovered in the United States.
In 1998, the United States convened a conference with 44 nations in Washington, DC, known as the Washington Conference, which produced Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art. One of these principles is that
steps should be taken expeditiously to achieve a just and fair solutionto claims involving such art that has not been restituted if the owners or their heirs can be identified.
The same year, Congress enacted the Holocaust Victims Redress Act (Public Law 105–158, 112 Stat. 15), which expressed the sense of Congress that
all governments should undertake good faith efforts to facilitate the return of private and public property, such as works of art, to the rightful owners in cases where assets were confiscated from the claimant during the period of Nazi rule and there is reasonable proof that the claimant is the rightful owner..
In 2009, the United States participated in a Holocaust Era Assets Conference in Prague, Czech Republic, with 45 other nations. At the conclusion of this conference, the participating nations issued the Terezin Declaration, which reaffirmed the 1998 Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art and urged all participants
to ensure that their legal systems or alternative processes, while taking into account the different legal traditions, facilitate just and fair solutions with regard to Nazi-confiscated and looted art, and to make certain that claims to recover such art are resolved expeditiously and based on the facts and merits of the claims and all the relevant documents submitted by all parties.. The Declaration also urged participants to
consider all relevant issues when applying various legal provisions that may impede the restitution of art and cultural property, in order to achieve just and fair solutions, as well as alternative dispute resolution, where appropriate under law..
Numerous victims of Nazi persecution and their heirs have taken legal action to recover Nazi-confiscated art. These lawsuits face significant procedural obstacles partly due to State statutes of limitations, which typically bar claims within some limited number of years from either the date of the loss or the date that the claim should have been discovered. In some cases, this means that the claims expired before World War II even ended. (See, e.g., The Detroit Institute of Arts v. Ullin, No. 06–10333, 2007 WL 1016996 (E.D. Mich. Mar. 31, 2007).) The unique and horrific circumstances of World War II and the Holocaust make statutes of limitations and other time-based procedural defenses especially burdensome to the victims and their heirs. Those seeking recovery of Nazi-confiscated art must painstakingly piece together their cases from a fragmentary historical record ravaged by persecution, war, and genocide. This costly process often cannot be done within the time constraints imposed by existing law.
Federal legislation is needed because the only court that has considered the question held that the Constitution prohibits States from making exceptions to their statutes of limitations to accommodate claims involving the recovery of Nazi-confiscated art. In Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art, 592 F.3d 954 (9th Cir. 2009), the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit invalidated a California law that extended the State statute of limitations for claims seeking recovery of Holocaust-era artwork. The Court held that the law was an unconstitutional infringement of the Federal Government’s exclusive authority over foreign affairs, which includes the resolution of war-related disputes. In light of this precedent, the enactment of a Federal law is the best way to ensure that claims to Nazi-confiscated art are adjudicated on their merits.
The purposes of this Act are the following:
To ensure that laws governing claims to Nazi-confiscated art further United States policy as set forth in the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, the Holocaust Victims Redress Act, and the Terezin Declaration.
To ensure that claims to artwork stolen or misappropriated by the Nazis are not barred by statutes of limitations and other similar legal doctrines but are resolved in a just and fair manner on the merits.
In this Act—
the term actual discovery does not include any constructive knowledge imputed by law;
the term artwork or other cultural property includes any painting, sculpture, drawing, work of graphic art, print, multiples, book, manuscript, archive, or sacred or ceremonial object;
the term persecution during the Nazi era means any persecution by the Nazis or their allies during the period from January 1, 1933, to December 31, 1945, that was based on race, ethnicity, or religion; and
the term unlawfully lost includes any theft, seizure, forced sale, sale under duress, or any other loss of an artwork or cultural property that would not have occurred absent persecution during the Nazi era.
Statute of limitations
Notwithstanding any other provision of Federal law, any provision of State law, or any defense at law or equity relating to the passage of time (including the doctrine of laches), a civil claim or cause of action against a defendant to recover any artwork or other cultural property unlawfully lost because of persecution during the Nazi era or for damages for the taking or detaining of any artwork or other cultural property unlawfully lost because of persecution during the Nazi era may be commenced not later than 6 years after the actual discovery by the claimant or the agent of the claimant of—
the identity and location of the artwork or cultural property; and
information or facts sufficient to indicate that the claimant has a claim for a possessory interest in the artwork or cultural property that was unlawfully lost.
For purposes of subsection (a)(1), in a case in which there is a possibility of misidentification of the artwork or cultural property, the identification of the artwork or cultural property shall occur on the date on which there are facts sufficient to determine that the artwork or cultural property is likely to be the artwork or cultural property that was unlawfully lost.
Subsection (a) shall apply to any civil claim or cause of action (including a civil claim or cause of action described in paragraph (2)) that is—
pending on the date of enactment of this Act; or
filed during the period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act and ending on December 31, 2026.
Inclusion of previously dismissed claims
A civil claim or cause of action described in this paragraph is a civil claim or cause of action—
that was dismissed before the date of enactment of this Act based on the expiration of a Federal or State statute of limitations or any other defense at law or equity relating to the passage of time (including the doctrine of laches); and
in which final judgment has not been entered.
Copyright law, fine art and navigating the courts. Attorney and AuthorCopyright Litigation Handbook (Thomson Reuters Westlaw 2015-2016) by Raymond J. Dowd