After months of inactivity and intimations of a possible settlement, the Chabad plaintiffs seeking the return of the Schneerson library have had enough, and have renewed their request to the District Court to sanction the defendants who have not complied with prior orders to return the library.
A brief recap: various Russian state libraries have been under court order for over two years to return the library of the Chabad Lubavitch movement, Menachem Schneerson. Despite assurances that no other Russian cultural objects are at risk of seizure, the Russian embargo on art and artifact loans to the United States has dragged out now over a year, affecting the most prominent museums in the country. Plaintiffs have worked their way through the procedural requirements of seeking to have the Russian defendants—who simply refused to participate in the case after losing a motion to dismiss brought under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA)—held in contempt. After priming the contempt issue for resolution, Plaintiffs have twice asked the District Court in Washington, DC to hold off on the plaintiffs’ requests for sanctions so that settlement talks could continue.
In a filing yesterday, however, the Chabad plaintiffs pointed to a recent public statement by Russian Cultural Minister Alexander Avdeyev that “constructive dialogue over the Schneerson Library will be possible only after the U.S. court reverses its decision and the claimant withdraws its suit.”
Not surprisingly, the plaintiffs find this unacceptable. Given the contempt that the Russian defendants have themselves shown for the District Court’s authority, expect relatively swift—and harsh—action on their request. Where that leaves the loan embargo is less clear, though a resolution beneficial to U.S. museums seems as far away as ever.
See the Art Law Report’s prior posts for historical coverage of this dispute.