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Center for Art Law Case Law Updates

The following case selection first appeared in this week's Center for Art Law newsletter:

Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Found., No. 05-CV-03459 (C.D. Cal. April 30, 2019). Spain's Thyssen-Bornemisza has won ownership of the long-disputed Camille Pissarro painting, "Rue St. Honoré, Après Midi, Effet de Pluie" (1882). (https://www.theartnewspaper.com/news/thyssen-bornemisza-collection-can-keep-a-painting-that-the-nazis-stole-us-judge-rules?utm_source=Center+for+Art+Law+General+List&utm_campaign=59ffc2af79-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_022731d685-59ffc2af79-346773625&mc_cid=59ffc2af79&mc_eid=8a2eda70d8) The original owner, Lily Cassirer, was forced to sell the painting while fleeing from the Nazis, and her heirs have been struggling to reclaim the work in U.S. federal court for the past 14 years. Judge John Walker wrote that had U.S. law been applied in the case, the Cassirers would have successfully claimed ownership because thieves cannot pass good title, even if purchased in good faith. (https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/878449/document(1)-1.pdf?utm_source=Center+for+Art+Law+General+List&utm_campaign=59ffc2af79-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_022731d685-59ffc2af79-346773625&mc_cid=59ffc2af79&mc_eid=8a2eda70d8) However, the case was determined using Spanish law which holds that since the painting was purchased in good faith, the ownership was valid. (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-04-30/spanish-museum-can-keep-nazi-looted-masterpiece-judge-rules?utm_source=Center+for+Art+Law+General+List&utm_campaign=59ffc2af79-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_022731d685-59ffc2af79-346773625&mc_cid=59ffc2af79&mc_eid=8a2eda70d8) This decision is available upon request.

The People of the State of N.Y. v. Sorokin, No. 02441/2018 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. April 25, 2019). Anna Sorokin, a/k/a Anna Delvey, was found guilty for eight counts, including three counts of grand larceny and one count of attempted grand larceny in the first degree, for convincing investors that she was a German heiress attempting to raise money to establish an art foundation. Sorokin is expected to be sentenced on May 9, 2019. (https://news.artnet.com/art-world/art-world-scammer-anna-delvey-found-guilty-larceny-counts-manhattan-da-announces-1527547?utm_content=from_artnetnews&utm_source=Center%20for%20Art%20Law%20General%20List&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=59ffc2af79-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_term=0_022731d685-59ffc2af79-346773625&mc_cid=59ffc2af79&mc_eid=8a2eda70d8, http://time.com/5560432/anna-delvey-sorokin-trial/?utm_source=Center+for+Art+Law+General+List&utm_campaign=38b1391402-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_022731d685-38b1391402-&mc_cid=38b1391402&mc_eid=%5bUNIQID%5d&utm_source=Center+for+Art+Law+General+List&utm_campaign=59ffc2af79-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_022731d685-59ffc2af79-346773625&mc_cid=59ffc2af79&mc_eid=8a2eda70d8, https://news.artnet.com/art-world/anna-delvey-allegedly-scammed-bankers-millions-1509595?utm_source=Center%20for%20Art%20Law%20General%20List&utm_campaign=59ffc2af79-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_022731d685-59ffc2af79-346773625&mc_cid=59ffc2af79&mc_eid=8a2eda70d8)

Mercedes Benz USA LLC v. Daniel Bombardier, No. 2:19-cv-10951 (E.D. Mich. filed on March 29, 2019). Mercedes Benz USA LLC (Mercedes) is seeking a declaratory judgment to validate its use of a street mural created by artist Daniel Bombardier, also known as DENIAL. The feud started over Instagram when the company posted a series of pictures featuring its G 500 Series truck in front of the Detroit mural. The street artist threatened Mercedes with a copyright lawsuit, to which it replied that it "respect[s] artists and the arts" and that "it regularly partners with cultural institutions and supports art festivals to advance the arts." Complaint available here: https://content-static.detroitnews.com/pdf/2019/bombardier.pdf?utm_source=Center+for+Art+Law+General+List&utm_campaign=59ffc2af79-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_022731d685-59ffc2af79-346773625&mc_cid=59ffc2af79&mc_eid=8a2eda70d8.

U.S. v. Rohana, 2:18-cr-00100 (E.D. Pa. 2019). The case against Michael Rohana ended on April 12, 2019, in a mistrial due to a jury split on acquittal. (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-47896762?utm_source=Center+for+Art+Law+General+List&utm_campaign=59ffc2af79-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_022731d685-59ffc2af79-346773625&mc_cid=59ffc2af79&mc_eid=8a2eda70d8) The case was brought after an incident that occurred in December of 2017, when Rohana attended an ugly sweater party at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Apparently drunk and disoriented, Rohana entered a closed terracotta warrior exhibition and broke the thumb off of one of the statues, subsequently keeping the thumb in his desk drawer. Rohana was charged with two federal crimes: theft and concealment of a cultural heritage item. Rohana's lawyer argued that the law used to prosecute his client was established for art heists and thieves, not drunken misdeeds. Order available upon request.

Portland Museum of Art v. Germain, No. CV- 17-299 (Me. Super. Ct. Cumberland County Ct., 2018). The Portland Museum of Art (PAM) in Maine is suing Anne Marie Germain, the caretaker of art collector and museum donor Eleanor G. Potter. (https://news.artnet.com/art-world/portland-museum-art-sues-caretaker-donor-removed-institution-will-just-death-1512790?utm_content=from_artnetnews&utm_source=Center%20for%20Art%20Law%20General%20List&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=59ffc2af79-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_term=0_022731d685-59ffc2af79-346773625&fbclid=IwAR1T5H4DxKoxLgBRoVpxRlVpohAxxssCDsesU4hNyEFONuGfclktQ7rSJe8&mc_cid=59ffc2af79&mc_eid=8a2eda70d8) Until 2015, the museum was Potter's primary beneficiary of $2 million. However, in 2015, Potter amended her will, leaving the bulk of her estate to Germain. Potter subsequently passed away in March, at the age of 89. The museum has accused Germain of elder abuse and claims that she manipulated Potter into changing her will. Germain maintains that she was a friend of Potter and was without ill-intention when acting on her behalf.

Lindgren v. State of Iowa, 4:2018-CV-00404 (S.D. Ind. Nov.1, 2018); Leonard Gregory et al. v. State of Iowa, CVCV-057085 (S.D. Ind. filed Sep. 26, 2018). Two lawsuits have been brought against the State of Iowa challenging a state statute passed in 2018, which banned materials containing sexually explicit or nude images. (https://www.theartnewspaper.com/news/art-vs-porn-iowa-prisoners-mount-legal-challenge-to-nude-image-ban?utm_source=Center+for+Art+Law+General+List&utm_campaign=59ffc2af79-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_022731d685-59ffc2af79-346773625&mc_cid=59ffc2af79&mc_eid=8a2eda70d8) While the law was passed to ban pornography from prisons, the statute is overbroad and deprives Iowa prisoners of access to mainstream publications, such as National Geographic, The Art Newspaper, and Medical Journals. Therefore, the prisoners claim that the law has violated their First Amendment rights. (https://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/PrisonPornPetition.pdf?utm_source=Center+for+Art+Law+General+List&utm_campaign=59ffc2af79-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_022731d685-59ffc2af79-346773625&mc_cid=59ffc2af79&mc_eid=8a2eda70d8, https://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/PrisonPornPratt.pdf?utm_source=Center+for+Art+Law+General+List&utm_campaign=59ffc2af79-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_022731d685-59ffc2af79-346773625&mc_cid=59ffc2af79&mc_eid=8a2eda70d8) Judge Rosenberg, presiding over the Gregory suit, determined on April 3, that there would be a hold on the enforcement of the ban for material containing "mere, non-sexually explicit, nudity." (https://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/iowa-nudity.pdf?utm_source=Center+for+Art+Law+General+List&utm_campaign=59ffc2af79-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_022731d685-59ffc2af79-346773625&mc_cid=59ffc2af79&mc_eid=8a2eda70d8)

The Center for Art Law strives to create a coherent community for all those interested in law and the arts. Positioned as a centralized resource for art and cultural heritage law, it serves as a portal to connect artists and students, academics and legal practitioners, collectors and dealers, government officials and others in the field. In addition to the weekly newsletter (http://cardozo.us2.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=78692bfa901c588ea1fe5e801&id=022731d685), the Center for Art Law subscribers receive updates about art and law-related topics through its popular art law blog (http://itsartlaw.com/blog/)and calendar of events (http://itsartlaw.com/events/). The Center for Art Law welcomes inquiries and announcements from firms, universities and student organizations about recent publications, pending cases, upcoming events, current research and job and externship opportunities. To contact the Center for Art Law, visit our website at: www.itsartlaw.com or write to itsartlaw@gmail.com.

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