Csepel v. Hungary

Nixon Peabody successfully represented Hungary in a lawsuit involving valuable artworks owned by Hungary and displayed at three museums and a university in Budapest.

The Supreme Court rejected the plaintiffs’ challenge to an appellate court’s decision which recognized that Hungary is immune from jurisdiction in the case.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a decision recognizing that U.S. courts lack jurisdiction over Hungary in de Csepel v. Hungary. That decision held, as a matter of first impression, that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act’s (FSIA) expropriation exception could not apply to strip Hungary of its sovereign immunity since the claimed property is not located in the United States. Following that decision, and the appellate court’s denial of the plaintiffs’ petition for rehearing en banc, the plaintiffs filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The original action, filed in 2010 by a U.S. citizen and two Italian citizens, involves an adverse ownership claim to more than 40 artworks that were once part of the Herzog Collection, including masterpieces by world-renowned artists El Greco, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Francisco de Zurbarán, Gustave Courbet, Velázquez and important Hungarian artists.

On Monday, the Supreme Court denied the plaintiffs’ petition, leaving firmly in place the appellate court’s holding that Hungary, which owns the artworks, is immune and thus must be dismissed from the case. The Supreme Court’s order follows the recommendation advanced by the U.S. Solicitor General in an amicus curiae brief, which explained that the appellate court’s decision—which adopted Hungary’s jurisdictional challenge—correctly interpreted the FSIA.

Nixon Peabody advised Hungary with a team including Thaddeus J. Stauber (Picture) and Sarah Erickson André.

Involved fees earner: Sarah Erickson Andre – Nixon Peabody LLP; Thaddeus Stauber – Nixon Peabody LLP;

Law Firms: Nixon Peabody LLP;

Clients: Republic of Hungary;

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Author: Ambrogio Visconti