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Russian entities face ‘uphill’ fight in subpoena case

  • D.C. Circuit panel considers immunity claims in long-running case over return of Jewish texts seized in early twentieth century
  • Federal choose in 2013 declared Russia in contempt and imposed $50,000 every day sanction

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(Reuters) – A federal appeals courtroom in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday questioned whether or not Russian-affiliated banking and vitality entities may contest subpoenas from a Jewish group that has fought for greater than a decade to drive Russia to return a group of sacred spiritual texts.

Agudas Chasidei Chabad of United States issued the subpoenas in 2019 to Tenex-USA Inc and State Development Corp VEB.RF in a bid to search out any U.S. belongings that might be seized to fulfill a choose’s order in opposition to the Russian Federation. A Washington, D.C., federal choose declared Russia in contempt in 2013, and the nation now faces greater than $150 million in civil sanctions.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit throughout Tuesday’s listening to at instances appeared poised to uphold the decrease courtroom choose’s orders that mentioned Tenex and the financial institution, which aren’t defendants, can not dodge Chabad’s push for discovery.

D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Sri Srinivasan mentioned Tenex was going through an “uphill battle” in contesting the subpoena. Russia is the defendant in the lawsuit, filed in 2004 to compel the return of hundreds of spiritual texts seized in the early twentieth century. Russia stopped collaborating in the litigation in 2009 and was held in default.

“It’s difficult to see you as a legal representative, at least in the normal way we think about legal representatives, which is a trustee or somebody who’s actually standing in the shoes of the party,” D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Sri Srinivasan advised Nicolle Kownacki of White & Case, a lawyer representing Tenex, throughout arguments.

Kownacki didn’t instantly return a message looking for remark after the argument. Lawyers from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, together with David Livshiz, represented the Russian-affiliated financial institution. Livshiz didn’t instantly return a message looking for remark.

Livshiz argued the financial institution, as an instrument of the Russian authorities, is proof against the jurisdiction of U.S. courts. Kownacki advised the D.C. Circuit in a quick that Chabad was looking for “invasive and burdensome discovery.”

Steven Lieberman of Rothwell, Figg, Ernst & Manbeck, who argued in the D.C. Circuit for Chabad, advised Reuters after the listening to that Russia has “for years thumbed its nose” on the U.S. courtroom system. He mentioned “for no good reason” the Russian authorities has refused to return the cultural books and artifacts at concern in the lawsuit.

Chabad’s subpoenas are exploring the connection of the financial institution and vitality outfits to Russia. Chabad has not moved to “attach” any asset in the U.S. to fulfill a choose’s order in opposition to Russia.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth declared Russia in contempt over its refusal to return the sacred texts and imposed a $50,000 every day sanction in 2013.

The United States on the time objected to the imposition of a sanction, arguing it might hurt the federal government’s overseas coverage pursuits and its diplomatic effort to settle the dispute with Russia on behalf of Chabad.

Srinivasan heard the case with D.C. Circuit Judge Judith Rogers and Senior Judge David Sentelle.

The case is Agudas Chasidei Chabad of United States v. Russian Federation, U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, No. 20-7080.

For the plaintiff: Robert Parker and Steven Lieberman of Rothwell, Figg, Ernst & Manbeck

For Tenex-USA: Nicolle Kownacki and David Riesenberg of White & Case

For State Development Corp VEB.RF: David Livshiz of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

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