Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

DE GASTER v. DILLON

July 2, 1963

Elizabeth DE GASTER et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Douglas DILLON, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JONES

 WILLIAM B. JONES, District Judge.

 In this action plaintiffs seek through a mandatory injunction to require the defendant Secretary of the Treasury to pay awards made to their predecessors in interest under Section 4 of the International Claims Settlement Act of 1949, 64 Stat. 13, 22 U.S.C. § 1623. The Court, following the trial of the action, has ascertained the following to be the facts and has concluded as indicated hereinafter:

 Plaintiffs are the children of the deceased Adolph Philips and the niece and nephews of the deceased Philip Philips. *fn1" As such children and niece and nephews, they have succeeded to and are the assignees of the claims asserted by Philip Philips and Adolph Philips which are in issue here.

 At the time of World War II Philip Philips and Adolph Philips owned substantial property in Yugoslavia. Following the enactment of the International Claims Settlement Act of 1949, 22 U.S.C. § 1621 et seq., they asserted claims arising out of the taking of their Yugoslav properties by the Yugoslav Government following World War II. Awards were made on those claims on December 30, 1954. The claims were docketed before the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission of the United States (originally known as the International Claims Commission of the United States) as Docket Y-1459 and Y-1460. In Docket Y-1459, the December 30, 1954 decision awarded $260,394.59 and an additional amount in the sum of $4,922.50 as interest, and in Docket Y-1460, the December 30, 1954 decision awarded $140,397.40 and an additional amount in the sum of $2,596.36 as interest. Pursuant to Section 8(c) of the International Claims Settlement Act of 1949 (22 U.S.C. § 1627(c)), the awards were to be paid by the Secretary of the Treasury, the same having been certified to the United States Treasury under date of December 30, 1954 by the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission. The Secretary of the Treasury has refused to pay the amounts awarded and the reason given for refusing to do so was that the awards were obtained through the use of a false, fictitious or fraudulent document, namely, a purported decision of the Supreme Court of the People's Republic of Croatia, dated December 8, 1954.

 Appearing at the trial was Joseph Brncic, President, or sometimes known as Chief Justice, of the Supreme Court of the People's Republic of Croatia. *fn2" The witness testified that in the middle of December, 1954, plaintiff George Philips came to the Zagreb office of the witness together with a Yugoslav by the name of Ivekovic. Also present was another judge of the Supreme Court of Croatia. Philips and Ivekovic discussed with the witness and the other judge the question of whether the Supreme Court of Croatia would issue a decision concerning the Philips' Croatian property. Philips and Ivekovic showed the judges documents evidencing action by a district commission which took the plaintiffs' land under the Agrarian Reform Act of Yugoslavia. Philips and Ivekovic desired to have the district commission's decision annulled and a decision entered by the Supreme Court of Croatia that the land had been taken under a later law. Witness Brncic testified that he advised George Philips that it was not possible to annul the Agrarian Reform Law action and issue a Supreme Court decision. The conversation was carried on in both the Croatian and English language and, according to the witness, George Philips understood the witness. Philips and Ivekovic were with the two judges of the Supreme Court of Croatia for a period of not more than 10 to 20 minutes and it might even have been a lesser time. The witness testified that the other judge present did not tell George Philips that the latter would have to go to a lower court in Croatia in order to obtain an order and that, depending upon the nature of that decision, it might come to the Supreme Court of Croatia for final decision. Following George Philips' departure from witness Brncic's offices in 1954, the witness never again saw George Philips until the occasion of this trial when he identified him in the courtroom.

 In the spring of 1955, the witness for the first time saw the purported December 8, 1954 decision of the Supreme Court of Croatia. This document was sent to Yugoslavia by the Government of the United States. The document, according to the witness Brncic was not a decision of the Supreme Court of Croatia. He testified as to how it did not conform in several respects to a decision of that Court. Among other things, it stated that it had been signed by an official known as a Recorder and named Peter Illic, when, according to the witness, there was no such person serving in that capacity. Moreover, the document had impressed upon it the seal of the President of the Court, and a decision of the Supreme Court of Croatia would not bear the President's seal. Again, the style of the decision did not conform to decisions of the Supreme Court of Croatia and the document was written in the Serbian language when in fact all decrees issued by the Supreme Court of Croatia are in the Croatian language. Furthermore, the witness testified that the Supreme Court of Croatia had no jurisdiction to issue such a decree. A personal investigation by witness Brncic of the records of the Croatian Supreme Court showed that there was and had been no case involving the taking of the Philips' property.

 Witness Brncic also testified that, as a result of the receipt from the United States Government of the purported decision of the Supreme Court of Croatia, an investigation was undertaken in Yugoslavia. The Prosecutor General of Yugoslavia authorized the investigation which was conducted by a judge of a district court in Zagreb; the Supreme Court having no authority to investigate since a purported decision of that Court was involved. No final determination of this investigation has resulted, although it has been underway since 1955. Witness Brncic testified that the investigation has been suspended or continued until such a time as George Philips returns to Yugoslavia and testifies with respect to the purported Supreme Court decision. The investigation was for the purpose of determining whether the document was authentic and, if it were not, who it was that forged it, stole the paper on which it was written and obtained and used the seal of the President of the Court.

 No criminal action has ever been instituted in a court of the United States against George Philips with respect to the questioned document, although the authenticity of the document has been questioned by the United States authorities since December of 1954 or early 1955.

 It was stipulated that the purported decision of the Supreme Court of Croatia was brought back from Yugoslavia by George Philips in December of 1954, and that it was presented to the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission on behalf of the plaintiffs but not by any one of them.

 It was following the receipt of the purported decision of the Supreme Court of Croatia that the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission issued its final decision No. 1497 (Docket No. Y-1459) and final decision No. 1504 (Docket No. Y-1460). In each of those decisions, the Commission stated that it had issued a proposed decision in November, 1954, denying compensation for the taking of the real property located in Yugoslavia which had been owned by Philips. In each instance the Commission stated that when it issued its proposed decision it did so on the ground that the property was taken by the Government of Yugoslavia prior to the dates that the original claimants (Philip Philips in one case, and Philip Philips and Adolph Philips in the other) became nationals of the United States.

 According to the final decision in each case, findings of the proposed decision resulted from a January 6, 1953 report to the Commission by the Government of Yugoslavia in which it was asserted that the property had been taken on the basis of a decision of the District Commission for Agrarian Reform and Colonization, pursuant to the Law for Carrying out Agrarian Reform and Colonization of November 24, 1945. The final decision further stated that the Yugoslav Government had submitted certified copies of the decision of the District Commission.

 Furthermore, in each case the final decision of the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission stated that the claimants (being the successors of the then deceased Philip Philips and Adolph Philips) had filed objections to the proposed decision contending that the interest of the original claimants in the properties was nationalized or otherwise taken by the Yugoslav Government by operation of the Second Nationalization Act of April 28, 1948 and that the taking was effectuated after Philip Philips and Adolph Philips had become citizens of the United States. In each instance, upon the claimants' request, a hearing was held on December 16, 1954, at which time counsel for the claimants presented oral argument, submitted additional evidence, and was granted leave to file a brief and submit further documentary proof. Claimants' counsel stated that the further documented proof was then in the process of being obtained by George Philips (a plaintiff here), who at the time was in Yugoslavia. The final decision in each instance stated that on December 27, 1954 the claimants filed with the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission a certified copy of the decision of the Croatian Supreme Court, dated December 8, 1954; a decision of the County People's Committee; an official certification by the Local People's Committee; a certified extract from the Land Register of the County Court; and an affidavit by George Philips setting forth the steps taken and procedure followed by him in securing such documentary proof. *fn3"

 The Foreign Claims Settlement Commission in each final decision treated in detail with the Croatian Supreme Court decision which, among other things, provided that the earlier decision of the District Commission for Agrarian Reform and Colonization was vacated; that the real property mentioned in the decision of the District Commission was nationalized under the Law of Nationalization of April 28, 1948; and that the County Court as a land recording court was directed to make the required entries in the land records. Final decision No. 1504 then stated: "[On] the basis of all the evidence and data now [December 30, 1954] of record, the Commission finds that the [Philips] property * * * was not taken by the Government of Yugoslavia on July 23, 1946 * * * but was in fact taken by the Government of Yugoslavia on April 28, 1948 as to Philip Philips' ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.