Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Files Brief in Support of CA Heirs to Jewish Art that was Taken by Nazi Functionaries

Thursday, February 4, 2016
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LOS ANGELES – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced that California has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in David Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation, a case concerning the disposition of art taken from a Jewish art collector by Nazi functionaries. Specifically, the amicus brief urges the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to reverse a lower court decision and reinstate a case brought by the California heirs of a Jewish art collector who was forced by Nazi functionaries to give up a valuable painting shortly before World War II.  

The painting, Camille Pissarro’s Rue Saint-Honore, Apres-midi, Effet de Pluie, is currently housed at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation Museum in Madrid, Spain.  

 “The cruel atrocities and genocide perpetrated by the Nazi regime against Jewish families during World War II can never be fully redressed.  But the Cassirer case provides a rare opportunity for one family to seek justice,” said Attorney General Kamala Harris. “California law provides a fair and equitable opportunity for courts to hear the claims of those whose valuable artworks were taken from their families by theft and extortion.  Providing the Cassirer family their day in court is an important step in pursuing a just and fair outcome.”   

In 2005, the nephew of the original owner of the painting filed a lawsuit against the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation to reclaim ownership and possession of the painting. In 2012, the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles dismissed the case, in part on the theory that the California Legislature’s 2010 extension of California’s statute of limitations in cases involving stolen art was an improper intrusion into the federal government’s power over foreign affairs.  

In a 2013 appeal of that dismissal, in which Attorney General Harris filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing against the dismissal, the Ninth Circuit agreed with the State’s argument, reversed the dismissal, and remanded the case for further proceedings. In 2015, the district court again dismissed the case, in part on the theory that allowing the plaintiffs to proceed under California’s statute of limitations would violate the Foundation’s due process rights under the U.S. Constitution. 

In the new friend-of-the-court brief filed last week, the Attorney General argues that the rationale provided for the most recent dismissal of the case was also erroneous.

A copy of the brief is attached to the electronic version of this release at

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