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Austria v. Altmann

Docket No.: 03-13
Argued: February 25, 2004
Decided: June 7, 2004

Topics:

28 U.S.C. 1605, Criminal Procedure, Article I, Bankruptcy, Civil Rights Act, Eleventh Amendment, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976, Supremacy Clause, absolute immunity, disparate treatment, federal district courts jurisdiction, immunity from suit, property rights, sovereign immunity, trademark

PartyNames: Republic of Austria, et al. v. Maria V. Altmann
Petitioner: Republic of Austria, et al.
Respondent: Maria V. Altmann

Court Below: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Citation: CA 9, 317 F.3d 954, amended 327 F.3d 1246 QUESTIONS PRESENTED The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district co urt's jurisdiction over the Republic ofAustria, a sovereign state, and its nati onal museum, the Austrian Gallery, for a disputed expropriation claim that ar ose in 1948, twenty-eight years beforeenactment of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976, 28 U.S.C. § 1602 et seq. ("FSIA "). The claim challenges the Republic's ownership of artwork that is and always has been lo cated in Austria. Jurisdiction and venue in the Central District of California were asserted notwithstanding that(a) the claims in this case arose before the United States adopted the
Supreme Court Docket

Republic of Austria, et al.
v.
Maria V. Altmann
541 U.S. 677 (2004)
Consideration Limited:

Limited to Question 1 presented by the petition.

Question Presented:

The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district co urt's jurisdiction over the Republic ofAustria, a sovereign state, and its nati onal museum, the Austrian Gallery, for a disputed expropriation claim that ar ose in 1948, twenty-eight years beforeenactment of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976, 28 U.S.C. § 1602 et seq. ("FSIA "). The claim challenges the Republic's ownership of artwork that is and always has been lo cated in Austria. Jurisdiction and venue in the Central District of California were asserted notwithstanding that(a) the claims in this case arose before the United States adopted the restrictive theory of sovereign immunity in 1952, at a time when Austria had an expectation of absolute immunity from private civil suit in United Statescourts; (b) the United States opposes a finding of jurisdiction in this case; (c) respondent did not exhaust her legal remedies in Austria; and (d) nopart of the alleged events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred in any judicial district in the United States, or concern any commercial activity here. In holding that the FSIA may be retrospectively applied to pre-1952 events, the Ninth Circuit's decision direct ly conflicts with the holdings of the Second, Eleventh and District of Columbia Circuits. Three questions are presented:1. Does the expropriation exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 ("FSIA"), 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(3), afford jurisdiction over claims against foreign states based on conduct that occurred before the United States adopted the restrictive theory of sovereign immunity in 1952? 2. Can jurisdiction over a foreign state or its agency or instrumentality be asserted under the FSIA's expropriation exception when due process minimum contacts requirements have not been met, there has been noviolation of international law because the claimant failed to exhaust her legal remedies in the foreign state, and the activity that is the basis forjurisdiction is the limited, non-commercial promotion of a not-for-profit national museum? 3. Can foreign states be sued in any district where a claimant resides, notwithstanding the provisions of28 U .S.C. § 1391(f)(4) laying exclusive venue in the District of Columbia, when no substantial part of the events oromissions giving rise to the claim occurred in, and the property claimed is not situated in, the United States? CERT. GRANTED: 9/30/03 Limited to Question 1 presented by the petition.

Question:

Does the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 apply to actions that took place before its passage?

Note:

. CA 9, 317 F.3d 954, amended 327 F.3d 1246

Austria v. Altmann
ORAL ARGUMENT

February 25, 2004

Holding: affirmed
Decision: Decision: 6 votes for Altmann, 3 vote(s) against
Vote: 5-4
Opinion By:
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