Supreme Court Skirts Dispute Over $210 Million Holocaust Settlement,
Turning Back Appeal
By GINA HOLLAND
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court turned back an appeal Monday from
Austrian Jewish victims of the Nazi regime whose litigation had tied up
payments from a $210 million settlement.
Justices refused to disturb a decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals, which sided with the Bush administration in dismissing the
class-action lawsuit against Austria.
That decision late last year cleared the way for payouts from a 2001
settlement fund. So far, more than 2,000 payments have been made to
Austrian Jews whose property was confiscated during the Nazi era and
World War II.
The fund was set up through negotiations with the Austrian government
and businesses.
Lawyers who filed the class-action lawsuit told justices that the
appeals court panel “swayed perhaps by an understandable desire to
obtain some measure of compensation for Holocaust survivors during their
lifetimes, has dismissed this case for the wrong reason.”
The appeals court panel had split 2-1 in agreeing with the Bush
administration that dismissing the case would improve U.S. relations
with Austria, Israel and European nations. A dissenting judge said the
ruling gives the government too much power to decide when lawsuits can
be brought against other countries.
The lawsuit had been filed in 2000 by present and former nationals of
Austria and their heirs and successors who suffered from Nazi
persecution between 1938 and 1945.
Had the high court intervened and reinstated the case, Austria could
have been forced to defend itself in court despite the settlement.
Gideon Taylor, executive vice president of the conference on Jewish
Material Claims Against Germany, said more than 2,000 payments have been
made and more are coming.
“It’s important that payments are made quickly, because they’re
symbolic. As much as they’re about the money, they’re also about the
history,” Taylor said.
The case is Schindler v. Whiteman, 05-1296.
On the Net:
Supreme Court: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/
Claims conference: http://www.claimscon.org/