AO 7:01, Jan/Feb 2004
Editors Page: Protecting Cultural Property
Is the Law a Ass?
Come to law school with me. Imagine two looters, one in Italy and one in the United States. The Italian looter steals a gorgeous Greek vase from a museum in Italy. The American looter steals a gorgeous Greek vase from a museum in the United States. Both vases end up in the home of an innocent American couple who purchased them with no reason to believe they were stolen.
Both museums discover the stolen vases in the living room of the American couple. The looters long ago absconded.
An official from the American museum visits the United States Attorney (an official of the Department of Justice) and requests that he sue the couple to get back the vase for the museum. The U.S. Attorney says to her, Im sorry. You have an air-tight case, but you must bring the suit yourself. Sue the couple in an American court and you will get the vase back.