The U.S. State Department is continuing to discuss with Russia the country's return of thousands of Jewish texts seized in the early 20th century, a lawyer fighting to retrieve the books and manuscripts told a Washington judge today.
The attorney, Nathan Lewin, who represents the Agudas Chasidei Chabad of the United States in its suit against Russia, was in Washington federal district court this morning to provide an update on the talks.
Notwithstanding the deterioration of relations, Lewin said—a reference to the dispute between Russia and the United States over asylum for Edward Snowden—the State Department remains "committed" to ongoing talks with counterparts in Russia. Lewin said the discussion could result in the return of the property in dispute.
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth in 2010 ordered Russia to return the collection, which includes some 12,000 books and manuscripts that the Soviet army took from the Nazis. Earlier this year, Lamberth imposed $50,000 daily contempt sanctions against Russia over the country's refusal to return the Jewish texts.
In June, Lamberth used the terms "scofflaw" and "outlaw" to describe Russia's actions. Russia has long since abandoned its participation in the case. No lawyer for the country spoke in court at today's brief status hearing.
Lewin hasn't tried yet to pursue and enforce the sanctions Lamberth earlier imposed against Russia. As diplomatic talks continue between the United States and Russia, it's unlikely Lewin will seek any enforcement of those sanctions.
Lamberth didn't make any rulings today. He did, however, set another hearing for October 21, giving the United States and Russia additional time to talk.
"Best of luck in the meantime," Lamberth told Lewin and co-counsel Alyza Lewin.