Estate of Alice Leffmann Files Petition for Rehearing in Holocaust Restitution Case Against Metropolitan Museum of Art

July 11, 2019 – Press Release
Herrick, Feinstein LLP

Laurel Zuckerman, the Ancillary Administratrix of the estate of Alice Leffmann, today announced that she has filed a petition with the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit requesting a panel rehearing and rehearing en banc before the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Her lawsuit on behalf of the estate seeks to recover Pablo Picasso’s masterwork, The Actor, which was sold by her great-granduncle Paul Leffmann under duress in order to fund his and his wife’s escape from Nazi and Fascist persecution in the late 1930’s.

Ms. Zuckerman’s Petition seeks review by a three-judge panel of its decision to dismiss the estate’s case on the ground that Paul and Alice Leffmann, victims of the Holocaust, on the run from Nazi and Fascist oppression, unreasonably delayed bringing a claim to recover The Actor after World War II ended, and that the Metropolitan Museum, which received The Actor by donation in 1952, was prejudiced by the delay. Ms. Zuckerman also requests that all of the judges of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals review the decision, because it involves exceptional issues concerning federal law and U.S. foreign policy, and is in conflict with a decision of the United States Supreme Court.

As the Petition explains, the Court overlooked the Museum’s ‘unclean hands’. The Museum should have fully investigated the donation of the picture after World War II in light of the many red flags indicating that the picture may well have been tainted. Instead, it published incorrect provenances about the picture for more than forty years. Moreover, the decision flies in the face of a Federal statute intended to benefit victims of the Holocaust, a United States Supreme Court decision and applicable U.S. foreign policy, all of which taken together should deprive the Museum of the very defense that the Second Circuit panel invoked.

Ms. Zuckerman issued the following statement regarding her decision to seek a rehearing and rehearing en banc: “It is hard to convey what a struggle it has been to obtain even the most basic factual information about the true history of The Actor in the face of the Museum’s published provenance errors and misplaced documents. I have been fighting for many years on behalf of the heirs of Alice Leffmann against a very powerful museum that has an important painting that rightfully belongs to Alice’s heirs, and I will continue to do so until justice is finally achieved.”