Last week the US Supreme Court heard arguments in the Federal Republic of Germany v. Philipp and the Republic of Hungary v. Simon, with both cases stemming from property that was confiscated during the Nazi era.  At question was whether claimants to the property in question can sue a foreign government in a US court and whether that court can turn down these cases under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”) and concepts of international comity (a legal concept where one country upholds the legal decisions of other countries).  

The FSIA generally holds that plaintiffs cannot sue a foreign state in an outside jurisdiction.  There are exceptions to this, including the “expropriation exception” which allows for lawsuits in which plaintiffs claim that their “rights in property [were] taken in violation of international law.”  It is this exception that plaintiffs use in Nazi era related claims in order to overcome the barrier of the FSIA.  However, here, Germany has asked the court to determine whether taking property from its own citizens within its own borders falls into the exception.  Should the Supreme Court determine that the exception does not apply to a foreign state acting against its citizens within its own border, it would completely turn around years of jurisprudence.

You can listen to the arguments here: