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Bernstein v. Nederlandsche-Amerikaansche

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit
Feb 5, 1954
210 F.2d 375 (2d Cir. 1954)

Summary

allowing district court to pass on validity of acts of officials of German government due to State Department letter "reliev[ing] American courts from any restraint upon the exercise of their jurisdiction to pass upon the validity of the acts of Nazi officials"

Summary of this case from Princz v. Federal Republic of Germany

Opinion

No. 21193.

Submitted January 11, 1954.

Decided February 5, 1954.

Petition to amend the mandate of this court handed down in a prior appeal in this case, 173 F.2d 71. Petition granted.

Bennet, House Couts, New York City, for plaintiff-petitioner; Victor House, Albert I. Edelman and Werner Ilsen, New York City, of counsel.

Burlingham, Hupper Kennedy, New York City, for defendant Holland-America Line; Harold M. Kennedy, and Hervey C. Allen, Jr., New York City, of counsel.

Shearman Sterling Wright, New York City, for Third-Party Defendant, Chemical Bank Trust Company; John A. Wilson, M. VanVoorhies and Edmond K. Leach, New York City, of counsel.

Before AUGUSTUS N. HAND, CLARK and FRANK, Circuit Judges.


In the prior appeal in this case, 173 F.2d 71, 75-76, because of the lack of a definitive expression of Executive Policy, we felt constrained to follow the decision of this court in Bernstein v. Van Heyghen Freres Societe Anonyme, 2 Cir., 163 F.2d 246, certiorari denied 332 U.S. 772, 68 S.Ct. 88, 92 L.Ed. 357, by ordering the plaintiff to refrain from alleging matters which would cause the court to pass on the validity of acts of officials of the German government. Following our decision, however, the State Department issued Press Release No. 296 on April 27, 1949, entitled: "Jurisdiction of United States Courts Re Suits for Identifiable Property Involved in Nazi Forced Transfers." The substance of this Release follows:

"As a matter of general interest, the Department publishes herewith a copy of a letter of April 13, 1949 from Jack B. Tate, Acting Legal Advisor, Department of State, to the Attorneys for the plaintiff in Civil Action No. 31-555 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

"The letter repeats this Government's opposition to forcible acts of dispossession of a discriminatory and confiscatory nature practiced by the Germans on the countries or peoples subject to their controls; states that it is this Government's policy to undo the forced transfers and restitute identifiable property to the victims of Nazi persecution wrongfully deprived of such property; and sets forth that the policy of the Executive, with respect to claims asserted in the United States for restitution of such property, is to relieve American courts from any restraint upon the exercise of their jurisdiction to pass upon the validity of the acts of Nazi officials."

The letter from Mr. Tate is then quoted, pertinent parts of which follow:

"1. This Government has consistently opposed the forcible acts of dispossession of a discriminatory and confiscatory nature practiced by the Germans on the countries or peoples subject to their controls. * * *

"3. The policy of the Executive, with respect to claims asserted in the United States for the restitution of identifiable property (or compensation in lieu thereof) lost through force, coercion, or duress as a result of Nazi persecution in Germany, is to relieve American courts from any restraint upon the exercise of their jurisdiction to pass upon the validity of the acts of Nazi officials."

In view of this supervening expression of Executive Policy, we amend our mandate in this case by striking out all restraints based on the inability of the court to pass on acts of officials in Germany during the period in question. See 173 F.2d at pages 75-76. This will permit the district court to accept the Release in evidence and conduct the trial of this case without regard to the restraint we previously placed upon it.


Summaries of

Bernstein v. Nederlandsche-Amerikaansche

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit
Feb 5, 1954
210 F.2d 375 (2d Cir. 1954)

allowing district court to pass on validity of acts of officials of German government due to State Department letter "reliev[ing] American courts from any restraint upon the exercise of their jurisdiction to pass upon the validity of the acts of Nazi officials"

Summary of this case from Princz v. Federal Republic of Germany

In Bernstein we had initially refused to allow adjudication of the validity of acts of the Nazi government of Germany in the absence of any expression of views from the Executive Branch, see 173 F.2d 71, but had reversed that decision and, as an exception to the act of state doctrine, allowed adjudication after receiving advice from the Acting Legal Advisor to the State Department that was expressly intended "`to relieve American courts from any restraint upon the exercise of their jurisdiction to pass upon the validity of the acts of Nazi officials.'"

Summary of this case from Banco Nacional De Cuba v. Chase Manhattan Bank

In Bernstein, as should be clear, the balance of equities was almost entirely on the side of the party opposing application of the act of state doctrine, plaintiff, whereas here, as we found in our prior decision in this case, the contrary is true, since First National City is seeking a windfall at the expense of other creditors. 431 F.2d at 404 n. 18.

Summary of this case from Banco Nacional de Cuba v. First National City Bank of New York

In Bernstein v. N.V. Nederlandsche-Amerikaansche Stoomvaart-Maatschappij, 210 F.2d 375 (2 Cir. 1954) (per curiam), when we received word from the State Department that it was State Department policy to permit American courts to pass on the validity of acts done by Nazi officials, our court rescinded its earlier mandate by which, based upon the act of state doctrine, we had prevented the district court from questioning the validity of the acts of the German Nazi government.

Summary of this case from Banco Nacional de Cuba v. Sabbatino

In Bernstein v. N.V. Nederlandsche-Amerikaansche Stoomvaart-Maatschappij, 210 F.2d 375 (2d Cir. 1954), the court deferred to a press release issued by the Department of State in which the Department took the position that in cases seeking reparations for confiscations of property by Nazi officials, American courts should not be restrained by doctrines of international law that, under more routine circumstances, would require a court not to exercise jurisdiction or reach the merits of a claim.

Summary of this case from Von Dardel v. Union of Soviet Socialist

discussing how the U.S. Secretary of State weighed in on the foreign affairs implications of a case involving the turnover of valuables looted by the Nazis

Summary of this case from Gowen v. Helly Nahmad Gallery, Inc.
Case details for

Bernstein v. Nederlandsche-Amerikaansche

Case Details

Full title:BERNSTEIN v. N.V. NEDERLANDSCHE-AMERIKAANSCHE STOOMVAART-MAATSCHAPPIJ…

Court:United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

Date published: Feb 5, 1954

Citations

210 F.2d 375 (2d Cir. 1954)

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