Thursday, June 4, 2015

Filthy Lucre

The Eleventh Circuit held that The Chief got it right in this unpublished per curiam opinion issued yesterday, regarding a plaintiff's repeat litigation concerning the Hungarian Gold Train. Judges Marcus, William Pryor and Martin wrote this introduction:
In the waning months of World War II, United States Army forces in Austria seized a train laden with gold, jewelry, works of art and other valuable personal property—riches that had been confiscated from some 800,000 Jews by Hungary’s Nazi-allied government. In the spring of 1945, the Hungarian government secreted the loot westward into Austria, away from the advancing Soviet Army, where it was intercepted. The United States government, which kept and housed the seized property, declared the treasure’s rightful owners “unidentifiable.” Despite pleas from organizations representing Hungarian Jewry, the United States refused to return or repatriate the property, which it deemed ownerless. Some was auctioned off, some was transferred to the Austrian postwar government, some was pilfered from U.S. storage, and some was requisitioned by high-ranking U.S. officers for their own personal use. The train, owing to its origin and its surfeit of gold, became known as the “Hungarian Gold Train.”

More than fifty-five years later, a group of Hungarian Jews brought a putative class action against the United States in the District Court for the Southern District of Florida, alleging that the United States government’s conduct related to the Gold Train violated, among other things, the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause
The Eleventh Circuit also held that Judge Altonaga got it right in this unpublished per curiam opinion issued Monday, regarding the Miccosukee Indian Tribe's predilection for non-taxation.
Because the federal tax laws at issue expressly apply to Indian tribes, because Congress retains plenary authority over the Tribe, and because the United States is the superior sovereign, the district court correctly ordered enforcement of the administrative summons.
Finally, Chairman Billie and the Tribe assert in their reply brief that the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act of 2014 ... mandates suspension of the present examination.
[b]ecause the present examination involves up to $300 million distributed to 600 tribal members or to service providers, there is a high likelihood the present payments would not qualify as “general welfare payments.”
In any event, we generally do not entertain issues first raised in a reply brief.
Move along. Nothing to see here. That's no advisory opinion.

NB I wonder what the interest and penalties total on $300 million?


Godwhacker said...

Probably my favorite Who song, certainly post Moon.

South Florida Lawyers said...

Great version -- love Pete's outfit!

Anonymous said...

Daltry playing a guitar is almost as bad as Jagger playing a guitar

South Florida Lawyers said...

Hey but it's just two chords!

Shoot The Lawyers said...

This opinion is fascinating for those of us who relish irony and the use of words that sanitize the author's real meaning. Let's start with "pilfer." There may be a more polite way of calling someone a thief but I cannot think of one. As a student of the theory that not all American soldiers behaved honorably (sort of a flip side of The Greatest Generation) during WWII, what we are talking about here is the wholesale burglary and fencing of stolen art by American servicemen. It happened. But pilfer is downright modest compared to the next linguistic whopper: that art was "requisitioned by high-ranking U.S. officers for their own personal use." The judge who penned this one had to be laughing as he clicked the keyboard. I guess if you don't want to accuse our brave officers of being out and out crooks during a time of national crisis, might as well ascribe to them the caricature of artistic bon vivants who needed that art work hung in their quarters along with their dirty socks and Dear John letters from home. And what is the story with the almost warning type label at the top of the opinion that says DO NOT PUBLISH. And yet it is . . .published! If it should not be published, why bother writing it in the first place?

Anonymous said...

STL-thanks. Well said.