H.R. 4292, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act

H.R. 4292

Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act

Committee
Judiciary

Date
May 6, 2014 (113th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Emily Leviner

Floor Situation

On Tuesday, May 5, 2014, the House will consider H.R. 4292, the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act, under suspension of the rules.  H.R. 4292 was introduced on March 25, 2014 by Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) and was referred to the House Judiciary Committee.  The bill was marked up on April 2, 2014 and was ordered reported by a voice vote.

Bill Summary

H.R. 4292 narrowly amends the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) to make it easier for U.S. cultural and educational institutions to borrow art and other culturally significant objects from foreign countries.  Specifically, the bill clarifies that a foreign country’s act of lending such work for temporary non-profit exhibition or display in the U.S. does not subject the foreign government to the jurisdiction of U.S. courts.  The immunity provided by the bill does not extend to claims arising from art and other culturally significant objects taken in violation of international law by Nazi Germany between January 30, 1933 and May 8, 1945.

Background

The Immunity from Seizure Act (IFSA), which was enacted in 1965, allows foreign entities to lend art and other culturally significant objects to the U.S. without becoming subject to the jurisdiction of U.S. courts.[1]  Under IFSA, the President may grant immunity to art that is on loan from another country to the U.S.  This arrangement facilitates cultural exchanges of artwork with other countries, as it provides assurances that art on temporary loan to the U.S. will not be seized.

The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), which was enacted in 1976, provides generally that foreign states are immune from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts.  FSIA then lists exceptions to the rule, identifying circumstances in which U.S. courts may exercise jurisdiction over foreign states.  One such exception is the “expropriation exception,” which allows U.S. courts to exercise jurisdiction in any case “in which rights in property taken in violation of international law are in issue and that property . . . is present in the United States in connection with a commercial activity carried on in the United States by a foreign state.”[2]

Recent court interpretations of FSIA have opened foreign governments to jurisdiction of U.S. courts, despite the fact that they were granted immunity under IFSA.  As a result, foreign governments are declining to loan art and other culturally significant objects to the U.S. due to fear of seizure.  H.R. 4292 brings IFSA and FSIA into harmony, restoring the protections that IFSA was intended to provide to assure foreign countries that their artwork will not be seized while on temporary loan to the U.S.

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[1] S. Rep. No. 89—747, at 2 (1965).
[2] 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(3).

Cost

According to CBO estimates, implementing H.R. 4292 would have no significant impact on the federal budget.  The bill would not affect direct spending or revenues.

Additional Information

For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107.