B. Cremades y Asociados has repesented the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain and the Jewish Community of Madrid on this case
The US Supreme Court has ruled unanimously in favour of the Cassirer family in their dispute against the Thyssen-Bornemisza Foundation, for the recovery of Camille Pissarro’s painting “Rue St. Honoré in the Afternoon, Rain Effect”. The painting was looted by the Nazis duing World War II and is currently hanging in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid.
The relevant issue before the US Supreme Court was the determination of the relevant conflict of laws rule, that is, whether the American judge should apply the federal or California state conflict of laws rule to in turn determine the applicable law.
The US Supreme Court has ruled that the conflict of laws rule of the state of California (rather than the federal rule) should apply. In reaching this conclusion, the Court has taken into account that, “once a foreign State lacks immunity from jurisdiction, it is subject to the same liability rules as a private entity.”
This decision is of crucial importance for the fate of the painting given that, using the federal conflict-of-laws rule, lower courts had until now applied Spanish law to determine whether the Thyssen-Bornemisza Foundation should return the painting to the family Cassirer.
Despite the numerous briefs presented by the law firm B. Cremades y Asociados, on behalf of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain and the Jewish Community of Madrid, these lower courts considered (incorrectly) that under Spanish law the painting belonged to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Foundation.
Now the US Supreme Court has ordered the lower courts to reopen the case, applying California’s conflict-of-laws rule, determining which law should apply to the merits of the dispute, that is, Spanish law or California state law instead. Under the substantive law of the State of California, even if the Fundación Thyssen-Bornemisza were a bona fide third party when it purchased the painting, it could not have acquired the title to it, given that the painting was looted during World War II. World. Consequently, if substantive Californian law were to apply, the Fundación Thyssen-Bornemisza would have to return it to the Cassirer family.
This interpretation of what the outcome would be under California law, has already been anticipated obiter dicta by lower courts.
B. Cremades & Asociados represented the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain and the Jewish Community of Madrid, who have appeared in this case as amicus curiae of the Cassirer family. The team involved were Bernardo M. Cremades Jr. (pictured), Patrick T. Byrne and José María López Useros.