Orkin v. Taylor
United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
487 F.3d 734 (2007)
Around 1907, Margarete Mauthner, a Jewish art collector living in Germany, purchased a painting by Vincent van Gogh (the painting). In 1933 the Nazis came into power in Germany. Jewish art owners often had their artworks confiscated or were forced to sell their artwork under economic duress. In 1939 Mauthner fled Germany, leaving her possessions behind. At some point and under unknown circumstances, the painting came to be owned by Alfred Wolf. In 1963 actress Elizabeth Taylor (defendant) purchased the painting in a publicized art auction. In 1990 Taylor attempted unsuccessfully to sell the painting. In 1998 Congress passed three statutes related to victims of the Nazis, including the Holocaust Victims Redress Act, which stated that all governments should help with the return of private property, including art, taken from victims during the Nazi regime. After the statutes were enacted, Mauthner’s descendants, the Orkins (plaintiffs), began investigating art that Mauthner had owned before fleeing Germany. When the Orkins learned of the painting owned by Taylor, they sent Taylor a letter demanding its return. Taylor refused, arguing that their demand was untimely. The Orkins filed a lawsuit in federal district court, seeking a return of the painting under state law and the Holocaust Victims Redress Act. The district court dismissed the complaint, holding that the state-law claims had expired under the relevant three-year statute of limitations and that the Holocaust Victims Redress Act did not create a private right of action under which the Orkins could sue. The Orkins appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Thomas, J.)
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