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The heirs of Nazi-era Jewish art dealers have spent nearly a decade trying to persuade German officials to return a collection of medieval relics valued at more than $250 million.

But they didn't make much headway until they filed a lawsuit in an American court.

The relatives won a round last week when a federal judge ruled that Germany can be sued in the United States over claims the so-called Guelph Treasure was sold under duress in 1935.

It's the first time a court has required Germany to defend itself in the U.S. against charges of looted Nazi art, and experts say it could encourage other descendants of people who suffered during the Holocaust to pursue claims in court.

The case also is among the first affected by a law passed in Congress last year that makes it easier for heirs of victims of Nazi Germany to sue over confiscated art.

"It open all kinds of other claims based on forced sales in Nazi Germany to jurisdiction in U.S. courts if the facts support it," said Nicholas O'Donnell, an attorney representing the heirs.

The collection includes gold crosses studded with gems, ornate silverwork and other relics that once belonged to Prussian aristocrats. The heirs of the art dealers — Jed Leiber, Gerald Stiebel, and Alan Philipp — say their relatives were forced to sell the relics in a coerced transaction for a fraction of its market value.

The consortium of dealers from Frankfurt had purchased the collection in 1929 from the Duke of Brunswick. They had managed to sell about half of the pieces to museums and collectors, but the remaining works were sold in 1935 to the state of Prussia, which at the time was governed by Nazi leader Hermann Goering.

Following the sale, Goering presented the works as a gift to Adolf Hitler, according to court documents. The collection has been on display in Berlin since the early 1960s and is considered the largest collection of German church treasure in public hands.

German officials claim the sale was voluntary and say the low price was a product of the Great Depression and the collapse of Germany's market for art. In 2014, a special German commission set up to review disputed restitution cases concluded it was not a forced sale due to persecution and recommended the collection stay at the Berlin museum.


A federal appeals court has cleared the way for Florida doctors to talk with patients about whether they own guns.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that key provisions of a 2011 law that restricted such speech violate the First Amendment.

Three-judge panels of the same court had issued conflicting rulings in a long-running challenge to the law brought by 11,000 medical providers and others. The case has become known as Docs vs. Glocks.

Backed by Gov. Rick Scott, the law prohibited doctors from asking patients about gun ownership unless it was medically necessary. Doctors say asking about guns is a safety issue and could save lives.

While ruling that much of the law violates free-speech rights, the court said some parts could remain in place.


The Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to delay the execution date for a Cleveland man convicted of killing 11 women and hiding the remains in and around his home.

The court on Thursday granted the request from attorneys for serial killer Anthony Sowell.

The execution had been set for Nov. 18, 2010. The court said the execution would be delayed until Sowell had exhausted all his appeals, most likely through the federal courts.

The court's action was similar to its approach to other death penalty cases. It regularly sets initial execution dates after upholding death sentences, then delays them on request.

Jurors found Sowell guilty of killing 11 women from June 2007 to July 2009.



Convicted killer Michael Skakel could be headed back to prison after the Connecticut Supreme Court reinstated his 2002 conviction for the gruesome murder of his 15-year-old neighbor Martha Moxley.

Moxley was killed — bludgeoned with a golf club belonging to the Skakel family and stabbed in the neck with the broken-off handle — the night before Halloween in 1975 in the driveway of her Greenwich home. No physical evidence tied Skakel to the crime, but he was convicted because of incriminating things he said to friends and a weak alibi he gave investigators.

Skakel, the now 56-year-old nephew of Robert and Ethel Kennedy, served a decade of his 20-to-life sentence until he was released in 2013 when an appeals court ruled he didn’t get an adequate legal defense from his lawyer Mickey Sherman.

Connecticut’s highest court rejected that ruling yesterday in a divided 4-3 decision that found Sherman “rendered constitutionally adequate representation” — setting in motion a series of last-ditch efforts by Skakel’s appellate attorneys to keep him from heading back to the lock-up.

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