The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Americans can sue foreign governments over looted art, stolen property and war crimes dating to the 1930s, a victory for an elderly California woman trying to get back $150 million worth of paintings stolen by the Nazis more than 65 years ago. The 6-3 ruling may embolden other victims of wartime atrocities to pursue lawsuits. Women who claim they were used as sex slaves during World War II have sued Japan, and Holocaust survivors and heirs have brought a case against the French national railroad for transporting more than 70,000 Jews and others to Nazi concentration camps. Those cases are pending at the Supreme Court.
Justices said that the governments are not protected from lawsuits in U.S. courts over old claims. Maria Altmann, who fled Austria, had attended the Supreme Court argument and said justices were one of her last hopes for the return of six Gustav Klimt paintings. She filed a lawsuit against the Austrian government in federal court in California, and won rulings that allowed her to pursue the case.