Well, this doesn’t happen every day, or even every year for that matter.

The Supreme Court today denied the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ request to answer a California choice-of-law question that should determine the ownership of a Camille Pissarro painting the Nazis forcibly took from a German Jewish family in 1939. Justice Joshua Groban recorded a dissenting vote from the denial in Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation.

Before today, the Supreme Court had granted 20 of the last 21 Ninth Circuit requests for help with California law issues, dating back to July 2018.  The lone denial during that time was in October 2019.

The court doesn’t say why it’s declining the Cassirer case. However, the federal court’s request made 78 days ago was by a divided panel and the dissenting judge wrote that Supreme Court assistance wasn’t necessary because “application of [California law] to the facts of this case is straightforward.” He also said, “When we certify non-determinative, nonnovel questions like the majority does today, we deplete our reservoir of comity by wasting the California Supreme Court’s time and resources.” The justices other than Justice Groban apparently agree with the dissenter.


Rule 8.548

Asked and answered:  California Supreme Court responses to Ninth Circuit questions

The constitutionality of the Supreme Court answering the Ninth Circuit’s legal questions

Ask not what the Supreme Court can do for the Ninth Circuit

Justice Kruger and Judge Owens talk about the Supreme Court answering Ninth Circuit questions

The shadow docket . . . of California’s Supreme Court, part 2