Sunday, February 17, 2013

Law 360: Justices Asked To Hear Imported Coin Seizure Case

Law360, a well-known legal news service published this report on the ACCG case by Helen Christophi :

Law360, Los Angeles (February 15, 2013, 4:40 PM ET) -- The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild urged the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to reinstate its suit against U.S. Customs and Border Protection and other agencies over the seizure of ancient Cypriot and Chinese coins after the Fourth Circuit tossed it over foreign policy concerns.

The guild filed a petition arguing for a reversal of the Fourth Circuit's October decision dismissing its suit claiming ancient Cypriot and Chinese coins couldn't be traced to illicit excavations in either country, saying foreign policy concerns shouldn't undermine the law as it had in the lower court's ruling.

“The ACCG has raised serious questions concerning whether foreign policy concerns trump judicial review where Congress has imposed significant procedural and substantive constraints on executive authority to restrict the ability of American citizens to import common cultural goods widely sold worldwide,” Peter Tompa of Bailey & Ehrenberg PLLC, an attorney for the ACCG, said.

The case, originally lodged in Maryland federal court in February 2010, followed the seizure of more than 20 ancient Cypriot and Chinese coins the ACCG imported from London in 2009. The guild argued that it should not be assumed that a coin was stolen or illegally shipped because the owner was unable to show a chain of custody beyond a receipt from a reputable source.

But the government countered that no judicial review of the plaintiff's claims was available and that even if it was, the ACCG had not stated a claim for relief.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake granted the government's dismissal bid, and said that actions taken pursuant to delegated presidential authority under the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act weren't subject to review under the Administrative Procedures Act.

The Fourth Circuit in October threw out the ACCG's suit on appeal, saying that anything but the most basic review of the Federal Register and the district court opinion for procedural compliance “would draw the judicial system too heavily and intimately into negotiations between the Department of State and foreign countries,” according to the guild's Tuesday petition.

Congress enacted the CPIA in 1983, authorizing the president to enter agreements with other countries to limit the importation of objects of archaeological interest and cultural significance.

The U.S. signed off on such deals with Cyprus and China in July 2007 and January 2009, respectively, limiting the importation of ancient coins minted in the countries.

In its petition, the ACCG argued that the high court should verify that lower courts must apply a “political question” test when a party attempts to dismiss a case over foreign policy considerations.

“The court should grant the petition because the lower court's ruling ignores this court's test for 'political questions' and is directly at odds with case law in sister circuits,” the petition said.

The ACCG also contended that the court must clarify its own decisions on judicial review regarding the delegation of presidential authority to government agencies, saying that the imposition by Customs, rather than the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, of import restrictions on some coins put into question what the proper standard of review is.

Finally, the group asserted that the various courts' refusal to review import restrictions harms American museums, collectors and small businesses that trade ancient coins.

"The importance of these issues to the continued access of American citizens and institutions to ancient coins and other artifacts as 'hands-on' mediums of cultural exchange and understanding also argue for this court to take this matter up,” the petition said.

Representatives for Customs could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.

The ACCG is represented by Peter K. Tompa of Bailey & Ehrenberg PLLC.

The case is Ancient Coin Collectors Guild v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection et al., case number 12-996, in the U.S. Supreme Court.

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