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Court: Spain can't impede art suit

September 10, 2009|Mike Boehm

Spain had nothing to do with the Nazis' confiscation of a $20-million Impressionist painting from a German-Jewish family in 1939, but the Spanish government and an affiliated Madrid art museum nevertheless may have to answer to the victim's heir in a Los Angeles courtroom, a federal appeals court has ruled.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco found Tuesday that Spain can't invoke the legal doctrine of sovereign immunity to throw out a suit brought by Claude Cassirer of San Diego, seeking the return of a painting by Camille Pissarro that now hangs in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.

Cassirer, an 88-year-old former portrait photographer, says his grandmother was forced to give up the Pissarro in exchange for permission to leave Germany on the eve of World War II.

The appeals panel ruled, however, that the trial judge must reconsider the question of whether Cassirer should take his case to a court in Spain or Germany, before it can be heard in Los Angeles.

-- Mike Boehm

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