« Definitely tasteless, possibly anti-Semitic (Updated) | Main | "Laying Claim to the Constitution" »

Monday, June 06, 2011

Why Do Amicus Work?

I’ve been asked about this a bit, so I thought it might be a useful topic for blogging. Should profs do amicus work? I imagine it will cause some people to wonder whether one’s scholarship is just advocacy in disguise, but in my next few posts, I’ll explain some of the reasons why I’ve decided to do pro bono amicus work. Your mileage may vary, of course.

My primary area of expertise, which I’ve been developing for the last twelve years, is Holocaust-era art claims. Obviously this is quite narrow, but the number of claims is high and there is important, not yet fully written history about Holocaust-era art trafficking at the highest echelons of our society. Closing the door now on the claims that don’t settle probably means never writing that history. The claims are difficult to litigate well, and many of the opinions dismissing them tend to be written in an overly broad, formalistic manner that does not heed historical reality.

When I was first asked to do an amicus brief, I did not jump in immediately with both feet.

I did so after I really dug into the facts of individual cases and became much more bothered by the state of affairs. I came to feel that academic objectivity should not mean neutrality. Playing Switzerland would be a coward’s move. I felt that it would be wrong to have all of this specialized knowledge in a critical time for the field (multiple cert petitions and other litigation pending; reform efforts in the Dep’t of State and Uniform Law Commission; international negotiations) and not do anything with it. Failure to act would ultimately be judged by history – and weigh on my perpetually guilt-ridden conscience. Here are links to my amicus work already up on ssrn in case it’s of interest:


Nazi-looted Art:

1. Bakalar v. Vavra Motion to File Brief Amicus Curiae,

2. Bakalar v. Vavra Brief,

3. Brief Amicus Curiae Filed in Grosz v. The Museum of Modern Art


Act of State & Laches:

1. Brief Amicus Curiae Filed in Konowaloff v. The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Posted by Jen Kreder on June 6, 2011 at 10:30 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Why Do Amicus Work?:


Don't be embarassed about your real reason: To serve justice!

Posted by: Eric Rasmusen | Jun 18, 2011 12:34:40 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.