July 2017 – Kendall Brill & Kelly LLP founding partner Laura W. Brill and Nicholas F. Daum were part of a team that won an appellate decision in one of the nation’s longest running art restitution cases. They represent the heirs of Lilly Cassirer, a German Jew, whose masterpiece impressionist painting of a Parisian street scene by Camille Pissarro was looted by the Nazis. The painting is held in a Spanish state-owned museum, which has refused to return it to the Cassirer family.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on July 10 reversed a lower court’s decision and found that there was evidence sufficient to warrant a trial on whether the museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, in bad faith ignored extensive “red flags” of Nazi looting. The court considered the laws of Spain, Switzerland, and Germany and concluded that sufficient evidence exists of the museum’s bad faith – including markings on the back of the painting – for a trial court to conclude that the museum acquired the painting, knowing that it had been stolen. A California trial will now determine the issue.
“This is great news for the Cassirer family, who have waited far too long for a resolution of this grave injustice,” said Ms. Brill. “As the Court noted, there is evidence in the record that the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection knew the painting had been stolen, but purchased it anyway. Yet the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection has insisted on litigating the matter for well over a decade instead of turning over a painting that rightfully belongs to the Cassirer family, descendants of victims of Nazi persecution.”
David Boies and Stephen Zack of Boies Schiller Flexner LLP served as lead counsel in the appeal.