DOJ Stops Federal Judge From Imposing Sanctions on Russia For Not Returning Jewish Texts taken by the Nazis in 1941

The U.S. Department of Justice has determined that a federal district judge in Washington, D.C., has no authority to sanction Russia for refusing to return Jewish tests that were seized in the early 20th century.  This legal battle has been going on for years, The Chadbad-Lubavitch movement sued the Russian Federation in 2004 for the return of thousands of books, and pages of texts seized during civil unrest in Russia. These texts were originally taken by the Nazis in 1941.  In 2010, a default judgment against the Russian Government was entered.  Other issues have arose out of this legal dilemma as Russia recently banned art loans to the United States for fear that they would be taken by Chadbad-Lubavitch.

The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act bars [the Judge] from exercising jurisdiction over Russian property located on Russian soil.  The Department of Justice said, “A civil sanctions order would in essence be the same as an order forcing Russia to turn over the texts, which…would be an overreach of the [Judge’s] authority.  The fear is that if Lamberth did go after Russia it could open the doors for other countries to start similar lawsuits against property in the United States.

“[T]o the extent that the imposition of sanctions might be relied upon as a precedent elsewhere, such an order would undermine the United States’ own interest in avoiding similar measures being imposed against it,” wrote Joel McElvain, a senior trial counsel with the Justice Department.

What do you think could be done to return the text? How should the United States Government handle this situation? Do you think the federal courts have authority to sanction Russia?


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