Letters Blogatory

The Blog of International Judicial Assistance | By Ted Folkman of Folkman LLC

Guelph Cross
Guelph Cross. Credit: Wikipedia

Case of the Day: Germany v. Philipp

Posted on February 4, 2021

The case of the day is Federal Republic of Germany v. Philipp (S. Ct. 2021). This is the case of the Welfenschatz, the Guelph treasure said to have been stolen by the Nazis from its Jewish owners. The claim was that Hermann Göring, one of Hitler’s most powerful ministers, had coerced the Jewish owners of the treasure to sell it for a fraction of its value to the Prussian government in the early 1930s. The heirs of the rightful owners and the government had agreed to conciliate the claim before the German Advisory Commission for the Return of Cultural Property Seized as a Result of Nazi Persecution, Especially Jewish Property. The Commission found that the sale by the Jewish owners had not been coerced. The heirs, dissatisfied with the decision, sued in Washington. The jurisdictional question was whether the case came within the expropriation exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which provides that a foreign state is not immune from jurisdiction in cases “in which rights in property taken in violation of international law are in issue.” Both the District Court and the DC Circuit had agreed with the heirs that Germany was not immune, and the Supreme Court granted Germany’s petition for review.

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Update: The Servotronics Cert. Petition

Posted on January 29, 2021

For those of you following the Servotronics case, the case about whether Section 1782 allows for discovery in aid of private foreign arbitrations, Justice Barrett has just denied Servotronics’s request to reconsider the Clerk’s routine administrative decision to enlarge the time for Boeing, the respondent, to file a response to the petition for certiorari. This increases the chance that the issue will become moot before the Supreme Court can decided it. The Justice’s decision was, as is typical in such matters, given without any opinion, but if I had to guess, I would guess that she was more concerned about docket management than the particulars of this case. The last thing I imagine the Court wants to do is to encourage more litigants to seek review of routine decisions from the Clerk’s office. But who knows.

The response to the petition is due next month, and I will cover it here!

Interesting Issue of the Day: Recognition of Remote Civil Marriages In Israel

Posted on January 25, 2021

The Forward and friend of Letters Blogatory Eugene Volokh have both written about an interesting case before the Israeli Supreme Court. In Israel, which kept the old Ottoman laws on personal status after independence, all marriages must be contracted in a religious ceremony; there is no civil marriage. This law makes it impossible for some Jews to marry in Israel, for example, because the Chief Rabbinate does not recognize one of the spouses as Jewish. Many Israelis in this situation have gone to Cyprus to have a civil marriage, and under ordinary rules of private international law Israeli courts do recognize such marriages as valid (because they were valid where contracted). But COVID travel restrictions have made that avenue difficult.

Enter Utah, which allows “virtual” weddings in which neither spouse has to be present in Utah. The question is whether Israeli law recognizes such marriages as valid.

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