In a case that has tested the principles of how a defiant sovereign defendant can be compelled to comply with a court order, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has taken an emphatic step in an order issued today. The Russian Federation, the Russian Ministry of Culture and Mass Communications, the Russian State Library, and the Russian State Military Archive will be fined collectively $50,000 per day until they comply with a 2010 judgment to return the library of Menachem Schneerson, the late charismatic leader of the worldwide Chabad Lubavitch movement, to the movement in Brooklyn, New York. Whereas the court lacked any power to compel the seizure of the library itself overseas, the plaintiffs will now be armed with a very real financial bludgeon against the defendants that have thumbed their noses at the U.S. courts for more than three years. In any case where the defendant refuses to obey a court order that court has a wide array of tools to compel compliance, but this case has been an awkward example of the limits on a court of law faced with an uncooperative party overseas. Particularly where the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1603 (the FSIA) was the basis for jurisdiction, as it is in so many wartime art restitution cases, and the fact that the 2010 judgment led to a still-ongoing embargo of art and cultural artifact loans to the United States, the decision is a significant one for the realm of art law.
Topics: cultural property, Lativa, Menachem Schneerson, Germany, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Rebbe, 28 U.S.C. § 1603, Bolshevik, the Russian Ministry of Culture and Mass Communica, Russian Federation, the Russian State Library, FSIA, Restitution, the Russian State Military Archive, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Agudas Chasei Chabad, Poland, Russian Revolution, Soviet Union, Immunity from Seizure Act