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Supreme Court Rejects Dispute Over Ownership of Monet Painting

November 14, 1994 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court, for the second time in six years, turned away a dispute today over ownership of a painting by impressionist Claude Monet.

The justices, without comment, refused to revive a lawsuit by a German woman who says the painting was hers when it was stolen from a castle during World War II.

Gerda Dorothea DeWeerth says she had inherited Monet’s ″Champs de Ble a Vetheuil″ from her father, who bought it at a Berlin gallery in 1908.

In 1943, DeWeerth’s lawsuit said, she transferred the oil painting to her sister’s castle in Oberalzheim for safekeeping. It was discovered missing shortly after U.S. soldiers, who had been staying there, left in 1945.

Edith Marks Baldinger of New York City bought the painting in undisputed good faith in 1957 from an art gallery.

DeWeerth sued Baldinger in 1983, shortly after learning that Baldinger had the painting. Baldinger’s main defense was that DeWeerth had waited too long to sue.

A federal trial judge in New York City ruled in 1987 that DeWeerth was the painting’s lawful owner, but the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed his ruling that same year.

The appeals court ruled that DeWeerth had not shown reasonable diligence in locating the stolen property, which the 2nd Circuit court said was a requirement under New York law.

But in a 1991 ruling in an unrelated case, New York’s highest court said no such reasonable diligence requirement exists under the state’s law.

DeWeerth cited the state court ruling in asking the federal trial judge to award her the Monet painting anew, and U.S. District Judge Vincent Broderick in 1992 ordered Baldinger to surrender the painting.

The 2nd Circuit court, however, overturned Broderick’s ruling again. The appeals court last May ruled by a 2-1 vote that the judge should not have granted DeWeerth’s request that he reopen the case after the state court ruling.

The case is DeWeerth vs. Baldinger, 94-550.