Text: H.R.6130 — 114th Congress (2015-2016)All Information (Except Text)

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Public Law No: 114-308 (12/16/2016)

 
[114th Congress Public Law 308]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]



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             HOLOCAUST EXPROPRIATED ART RECOVERY ACT OF 2016

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Public Law 114-308
114th Congress

                                 An Act


 
 To provide the victims of Holocaust-era persecution and their heirs a 
fair opportunity to recover works of art confiscated or misappropriated 
          by the Nazis. <<NOTE: Dec. 16, 2016 -  [H.R. 6130]>> 

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled, <<NOTE: Holocaust 
Expropriated Art Recovery Act of 2016. 22 USC 1621 note.>> 
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ``Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery 
Act of 2016''.
SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

    Congress finds the following:
            (1) It is estimated that the Nazis confiscated or otherwise 
        misappropriated hundreds of thousands of works of art and other 
        property throughout Europe as part of their genocidal campaign 
        against the Jewish people and other persecuted groups. This has 
        been described as the ``greatest displacement of art in human 
        history''.
            (2) Following World War II, the United States and its allies 
        attempted to return the stolen artworks to their countries of 
        origin. Despite these efforts, many works of art were never 
        reunited with their owners. Some of the art has since been 
        discovered in the United States.
            (3) In 1998, the United States convened a conference with 43 
        other nations in Washington, DC, known as the Washington 
        Conference, which produced Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art. 
        One of these principles is that ``steps should be taken 
        expeditiously to achieve a just and fair solution'' to claims 
        involving such art that has not been restituted if the owners or 
        their heirs can be identified.
            (4) The same year, Congress enacted the Holocaust Victims 
        Redress Act (Public Law 105-158, 112 Stat. 15), which expressed 
        the sense of Congress that ``all governments should undertake 
        good faith efforts to facilitate the return of private and 
        public property, such as works of art, to the rightful owners in 
        cases where assets were confiscated from the claimant during the 
        period of Nazi rule and there is reasonable proof that the 
        claimant is the rightful owner.''.
            (5) In 2009, the United States participated in a Holocaust 
        Era Assets Conference in Prague, Czech Republic, with 45 other 
        nations. At the conclusion of this conference, the participating 
        nations issued the Terezin Declaration, which reaffirmed the 
        1998 Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art 
        and urged all participants ``to ensure that their legal systems 
        or alternative processes, while taking into account the

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        different legal traditions, facilitate just and fair solutions 
        with regard to Nazi-confiscated and looted art, and to make 
        certain that claims to recover such art are resolved 
        expeditiously and based on the facts and merits of the claims 
        and all the relevant documents submitted by all parties.''. The 
        Declaration also urged participants to ``consider all relevant 
        issues when applying various legal provisions that may impede 
        the restitution of art and cultural property, in order to 
        achieve just and fair solutions, as well as alternative dispute 
        resolution, where appropriate under law.''.
            (6) Victims of Nazi persecution and their heirs have taken 
        legal action in the United States to recover Nazi-confiscated 
        art. These lawsuits face significant procedural obstacles partly 
        due to State statutes of limitations, which typically bar claims 
        within some limited number of years from either the date of the 
        loss or the date that the claim should have been discovered. In 
        some cases, this means that the claims expired before World War 
        II even ended. (See, e.g., Detroit Institute of Arts v. Ullin, 
        No. 06-10333, 2007 WL 1016996 (E.D. Mich. Mar. 31, 2007).) The 
        unique and horrific circumstances of World War II and the 
        Holocaust make statutes of limitations especially burdensome to 
        the victims and their heirs. Those seeking recovery of Nazi-
        confiscated art must painstakingly piece together their cases 
        from a fragmentary historical record ravaged by persecution, 
        war, and genocide. This costly process often cannot be done 
        within the time constraints imposed by existing law.
            (7) Federal legislation is needed because the only court 
        that has considered the question held that the Constitution 
        prohibits States from making exceptions to their statutes of 
        limitations to accommodate claims involving the recovery of 
        Nazi-confiscated art. In Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of 
        Art, 592 F.3d 954 (9th Cir. 2009), the United States Court of 
        Appeals for the Ninth Circuit invalidated a California law that 
        extended the State statute of limitations for claims seeking 
        recovery of Holocaust-era artwork. The Court held that the law 
        was an unconstitutional infringement of the Federal Government's 
        exclusive authority over foreign affairs, which includes the 
        resolution of war-related disputes. In light of this precedent, 
        the enactment of a Federal law is necessary to ensure that 
        claims to Nazi-confiscated art are adjudicated in accordance 
        with United States policy as expressed in the Washington 
        Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, the Holocaust 
        Victims Redress Act, and the Terezin Declaration.
            (8) While litigation may be used to resolve claims to 
        recover Nazi-confiscated art, it is the sense of Congress that 
        the private resolution of claims by parties involved, on the 
        merits and through the use of alternative dispute resolution 
        such as mediation panels established for this purpose with the 
        aid of experts in provenance research and history, will yield 
        just and fair resolutions in a more efficient and predictable 
        manner.
SEC. 3. PURPOSES.

    The purposes of this Act are the following:
            (1) To ensure that laws governing claims to Nazi-confiscated 
        art and other property further United States policy as set forth 
        in the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-

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        Confiscated Art, the Holocaust Victims Redress Act, and the 
        Terezin Declaration.
            (2) To ensure that claims to artwork and other property 
        stolen or misappropriated by the Nazis are not unfairly barred 
        by statutes of limitations but are resolved in a just and fair 
        manner.
SEC. 4. DEFINITIONS.

    In this Act:
            (1) Actual discovery.--The term ``actual discovery'' means 
        knowledge.
            (2) Artwork or other property.--The term ``artwork or other 
        property'' means--
                    (A) pictures, paintings, and drawings;
                    (B) statuary art and sculpture;
                    (C) engravings, prints, lithographs, and works of 
                graphic art;
                    (D) applied art and original artistic assemblages 
                and montages;
                    (E) books, archives, musical objects and manuscripts 
                (including musical manuscripts and sheets), and sound, 
                photographic, and cinematographic archives and mediums; 
                and
                    (F) sacred and ceremonial objects and Judaica.
            (3) Covered period.--The term ``covered period'' means the 
        period beginning on January 1, 1933, and ending on December 31, 
        1945.
            (4) Knowledge.--The term ``knowledge'' means having actual 
        knowledge of a fact or circumstance or sufficient information 
        with regard to a relevant fact or circumstance to amount to 
        actual knowledge thereof.
            (5) Nazi persecution.--The term ``Nazi persecution'' means 
        any persecution of a specific group of individuals based on Nazi 
        ideology by the Government of Germany, its allies or agents, 
        members of the Nazi Party, or their agents or associates, during 
        the covered period.
SEC. 5. STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS.

    (a) <<NOTE: Deadline.>>  In General.--Notwithstanding any other 
provision of Federal or State law or any defense at law relating to the 
passage of time, and except as otherwise provided in this section, a 
civil claim or cause of action against a defendant to recover any 
artwork or other property that was lost during the covered period 
because of Nazi persecution may be commenced not later than 6 years 
after the actual discovery by the claimant or the agent of the claimant 
of--
            (1) the identity and location of the artwork or other 
        property; and
            (2) a possessory interest of the claimant in the artwork or 
        other property.

    (b) Possible Misidentification.--For purposes of subsection (a)(1), 
in a case in which the artwork or other property is one of a group of 
substantially similar multiple artworks or other property, actual 
discovery of the identity and location of the artwork or other property 
shall be deemed to occur on the date on which there are facts sufficient 
to form a substantial basis to believe that the artwork or other 
property is the artwork or other property that was lost.

[[Page 130 STAT. 1527]]

    (c) Preexisting Claims.--Except as provided in subsection (e), a 
civil claim or cause of action described in subsection (a) shall be 
deemed to have been actually discovered on the date of enactment of this 
Act if--
            (1) before the date of enactment of this Act--
                    (A) a claimant had knowledge of the elements set 
                forth in subsection (a); and
                    (B) the civil claim or cause of action was barred by 
                a Federal or State statute of limitations; or
            (2)(A) before the date of enactment of this Act, a claimant 
        had knowledge of the elements set forth in subsection (a); and
            (B) on the date of enactment of this Act, the civil claim or 
        cause of action was not barred by a Federal or State statute of 
        limitations.

    (d) Applicability.--Subsection (a) shall apply to any civil claim or 
cause of action that is--
            (1) pending in any court on the date of enactment of this 
        Act, including any civil claim or cause of action that is 
        pending on appeal or for which the time to file an appeal has 
        not expired; or
            (2) <<NOTE: Time period.>>  filed during the period 
        beginning on the date of enactment of this Act and ending on 
        December 31, 2026.

    (e) <<NOTE: Time period.>>  Exception.--Subsection (a) shall not 
apply to any civil claim or cause of action barred on the day before the 
date of enactment of this Act by a Federal or State statute of 
limitations if--
            (1) the claimant or a predecessor-in-interest of the 
        claimant had knowledge of the elements set forth in subsection 
        (a) on or after January 1, 1999; and
            (2) not less than 6 years have passed from the date such 
        claimant or predecessor-in-interest acquired such knowledge and 
        during which time the civil claim or cause of action was not 
        barred by a Federal or State statute of limitations.

    (f) Rule of Construction.--Nothing in this Act shall be construed to 
create a civil claim or cause of action under Federal or State law.
    (g) Sunset.--This Act shall cease to have effect on January 1, 2027, 
except that this Act shall continue to apply to any civil claim or cause 
of action described in subsection (a) that is pending on January 1, 
2027. Any civil claim or cause of action commenced on or after that date 
to recover artwork or other property described in this Act shall be 
subject to any applicable Federal or State

[[Page 130 STAT. 1528]]

statute of limitations or any other Federal or State defense at law 
relating to the passage of time.

    Approved December 16, 2016.

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY--H.R. 6130 (S. 2763):
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

SENATE REPORTS: No. 114-394 (Comm. on the Judiciary) accompanying S. 
2763.
CONGRESSIONAL RECORD, Vol. 162 (2016):
            Dec. 7, considered and passed House.
            Dec. 9, considered and passed Senate.

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