2nd Circuit: Art theft does not violate the law of nations

Yesterday, the 2nd Circuit affirmed the F.R.C.P Rule 12(b)(1) dismissal of Orkin v. Swiss Confederation.

The quick and dirty: Plaintiff brought a FSIA and ATS claim against the Swiss Government for the 1933 sale of a Vincent Van Gogh by his Jewish great grandmother to a Swiss art collector.  Plaintiff claims the sale was conducted under duress.  With regard to the ATS claim, the court stated that the sale did not rise to the level of a jus cogens violation of international law:

Although Orkin maintains that both the original acquisition of the drawing by Reinhart and defendants’ retention of the same constitute violations of the law of nations, he cites no authority to support this claim. Indeed, our precedent is to the contrary. See IIT v. Vencap, Ltd., 519 F.2d 1001, 1015 (2d Cir. 1975) (Friendly, J.) (“We cannot subscribe to plaintiffs’ view that the Eighth Commandment `Thou shalt not steal’ is part of the law of nations.”)

(read the full order here)


About Charles Donefer

I am an attorney in New York City.
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