Federal Republic of Germany v. Philipp

141 S. Ct. 703 (2021)

From our private database of 46,000+ case briefs, written and edited by humans—never with AI.

Federal Republic of Germany v. Philipp

United States Supreme Court
141 S. Ct. 703 (2021)

Facts

The Welfenschatz was a collection of valuable medieval religious objects. In the late 1920s, a consortium of three art firms purchased the Welfenschatz. The firms were owned by Jewish residents of Frankfurt. In 1935, after the rise of the Nazi government, the firms were pressured into selling many of the Welfenschatz pieces to Prussia for about one-third of the objects’ value. Heirs to the original owners, including Alan Philipp (collectively, the heirs) (plaintiffs), submitted a claim to the German Advisory Commission (commission) in 2014, alleging that the acquisition of the objects by the Federal Republic of Germany (Germany) (defendant) was unlawful. The commission denied the claim on the grounds that the objects had been sold for a fair price. The heirs sued Germany in federal district court in Washington, D.C., alleging that Germany was not immune from suit because the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) exempted property taken in violation of international law (the expropriation exemption, also known as the Second Hickenlooper Amendment). The heirs argued that Germany had taken their property in carrying out a genocide, a violation of international law. Amendments to the FSIA in 2016 (the 2016 amendments) specified that a sovereign’s involvement in art-exhibition activities was not a commercial activity but stipulated that this rule did not apply in actions against Germany arising between 1933 and 1945. The heirs argued that the 2016 amendments showed that Congress intended the expropriation exemption to be applied to their claims against the German government. Germany argued that the expropriation exception did not apply because a sovereign nation’s expropriation of its own citizen’s property did not violate international law, a principle known as the domestic-takings rule. The district court denied Germany’s motion to dismiss, ruling in favor of the heirs. A panel of the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed on grounds that genocide was a violation of international law.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Roberts, C.J.)

What to do next…

  1. Unlock this case brief with a free (no-commitment) trial membership of Quimbee.

    You’ll be in good company: Quimbee is one of the most widely used and trusted sites for law students, serving more than 742,000 law students since 2011. Some law schools—such as Yale, Berkeley, and Northwestern—even subscribe directly to Quimbee for all their law students.

    Unlock this case briefRead our student testimonials
  2. Learn more about Quimbee’s unique (and proven) approach to achieving great grades at law school.

    Quimbee is a company hell-bent on one thing: helping you get an “A” in every course you take in law school, so you can graduate at the top of your class and get a high-paying law job. We’re not just a study aid for law students; we’re the study aid for law students.

    Learn about our approachRead more about Quimbee

Here's why 742,000 law students have relied on our case briefs:

  • Written by law professors and practitioners, not other law students. 46,000 briefs, keyed to 986 casebooks. Top-notch customer support.
  • The right amount of information, includes the facts, issues, rule of law, holding and reasoning, and any concurrences and dissents.
  • Access in your classes, works on your mobile and tablet. Massive library of related video lessons and high quality multiple-choice questions.
  • Easy to use, uniform format for every case brief. Written in plain English, not in legalese. Our briefs summarize and simplify; they don’t just repeat the court’s language.

Access this case brief for FREE

With a 7-day free trial membership
Here's why 742,000 law students have relied on our case briefs:
  • Reliable - written by law professors and practitioners, not other law students
  • The right length and amount of information - includes the facts, issue, rule of law, holding and reasoning, and any concurrences and dissents
  • Access in your class - works on your mobile and tablet
  • 46,000 briefs - keyed to 986 casebooks
  • Uniform format for every case brief
  • Written in plain English - not in legalese and not just repeating the court's language
  • Massive library of related video lessons - and practice questions
  • Top-notch customer support

Access this case brief for FREE

With a 7-day free trial membership