Marei von Saher Files Petition Asking Appellate Court to Reconsider its Dismissal of Her Claim to Recover Iconic Nazi-Looted Paintings from California’s Norton Simon Museum of Art
Marei von Saher, the sole living heir of the noted Dutch art dealer Jacques Goudstikker, today asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear its decision dismissing her claim to recover Lucas Cranach the Elder’s two extraordinary life-size paintings, Adam and Eve, from the Norton Simon Museum of Art in Pasadena, California. The paintings were among the most important artworks in Goudstikker's collection, which, because he was Jewish, was looted by the Nazis following the invasion of the Netherlands in 1940.
On July 30, 2018, the Ninth Circuit issued its decision upholding the District Court’s dismissal of Ms. von Saher’s claim. The ruling was the latest in Ms. von Saher’s 10-year court battle to recover her artworks. The Court of Appeals had previously reversed two prior dismissals of her case by the District Court.
Ms. von Saher has asked for a rehearing by the panel that issued the decision on the ground that the court misapprehended or overlooked critical facts and law. She has also asked for a rehearing en banc (by the full Court), on the ground that the decision directly contradicts the Ninth Circuit’s prior decisions in the case, and because her claim involves the question of whether Nazi-looted artworks should be returned to their original owners, an issue of exceptional importance to the United States.
Ms. von Saher, who is represented by Herrick, Feinstein LLP's Art Law Group, said: "I brought this case more than ten years ago to recover artworks that were indisputably looted by the Nazis during World War II from my family. I am very disappointed that the Court decided against me this time and ask that it reconsider its decision. I am hopeful that justice – long overdue – will finally be achieved in this case."
Lawrence Kaye, one of Ms von Saher’s attorneys, explained: “In light of the U.S. government policy strongly urging the restitution of Nazi-looted artworks to the victims’ families, it is particularly disturbing that the Court would permit these paintings to remain in the museum. As Congress expressly stated in the recently enacted HEAR Act (which permits claimants a greater opportunity to bring restitution claims without fear of having them dismissed as untimely), the law should ensure that the U.S. policy on restitution is furthered, not hindered, as it was with this decision.”