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FRAENKEL v. UNITED STATES

September 8, 1970

Frederick FRAENKEL, Plaintiff,
v.
The UNITED STATES of America, and David M. Kennedy, Secretary of the Treasury, and Leonard von B. Sutton, Theodore Jaffe and Sidney Freidberg, comprising together the Foreign Claim Settlement Commission of the United States of America, Defendants


Mansfield, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: MANSFIELD

MANSFIELD, District Judge.

In this action by a claimant attacking the constitutionality of a provision of the War Claims Act of 1948, as amended, 50 U.S.C. App. § 2010, which bars judicial review of decisions of the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission, and seeking an order compelling the Commission to revoke the decision denying plaintiff's claim, defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction. For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted.

 Section 202 of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. § 2017a, directs the Commission to determine the validity and amount of claims by U.S. nationals for loss, destruction or physical damage to their property located in Austria during the period from September 1, 1939 to May 8, 1945, as a consequence of military operations, seizure or nationalization. Payments on account of claims thus determined to be valid are authorized to be made out of the War Claims Fund, which consists of enemy assets frozen under the Trading with the Enemy Act, 50 U.S.C. App. § 2012. With a view to requiring that all claims be adjudicated within a reasonable period so that the Fund could be distributed on a pro-rata basis to claimants, Congress prohibited judicial review of the Commission's decisions and in 1962 directed the Commission to complete its adjudication of all claims within four years. 50 U.S.C. App. § 2010 provides in pertinent part as follows:

 
"The action of the Commission in allowing or denying any claim under this title * * * shall be final and conclusive on all questions of law and fact and not subject to review by any other official of the United States or by any court by mandamus or otherwise, * * *"

 H.R. No. 2035 explained the reason for the foregoing provision:

 
"This section also provides that the action of the Commission in allowing or denying any claim should be final and conclusive on all questions of law and fact and not subject to review by any other official of the United States or by any court.
 
" It is deemed essential that this finality clause be applicable with respect to the claims program authorized in proposed title II. In the absence of such a provision the program could not be completed within the 5-year limitation period and the funds available for payment of claims could be seriously jeopardized." (Emphasis supplied) U.S. Code Congressional & Administrative News (87th Congress, 2d Sess. 1962) pp. 3826, 3834 (July 25, 1962) (hereinafter "House Report").

 Along the same lines 50 U.S.C. App. § 2017j provides:

 
"The Commission shall complete its affairs in connection with the settlement of claims pursuant to this title [sections 2017-2017p of this Appendix] not later than four years following the enactment of legislation making appropriations to the Commission for payment of administrative expenses incurred in carrying out its functions under this title."

 Thus the mandate of the Commission expired four years later, on May 17, 1967.

 Pursuant to the above cited laws and regulations issued thereunder plaintiff filed two claims with the Commission each asserting ownership of property lost or destroyed in Austria or Hungary partly as the result of Soviet confiscation. One of the items, denial of which leads to the present lawsuit, was a claim for 105 railroad carloads of paper, each carload amounting to 10 metric tons. After receiving and considering evidence in support of the claim, the Commission on March 1, 1967, issued a Proposed Decision reviewing the proof and denying the claim. It found as follows:

 
"With respect to the above portions of the claim for the damage to factory known as Friedheim and Son and the loss of the additional carloads of paper goods at the same factory, the Commission finds that the claimant has not sustained the burden of proof with respect to the issues of date of loss or damage, ownership and value. Neither has there been a showing that the losses, if any, occurred between August 5, 1943, the date on which claimant acquired United States nationality, and May 8, 1945, the terminal date of the statutory period. Accordingly, these portions of the claims are denied."

 Plaintiff thereupon filed objections and on April 18, 1967, a hearing was held by the Commission at which plaintiff submitted additional evidence. On May 17, 1967, the Commission filed its Final Decision granting plaintiff's claim in part but denying that part based on the claimed loss of 105 carloads of paper allegedly owned by plaintiff.

 On May 15, 1970, three years after the Commission's Final Decision, plaintiff commenced the present action by filing a complaint incorporating the Commission's decision in his case as well as decisions with respect to another claim, Elsa S. Krewer and Herbert Silberstein, No. W-9809, dated November 17, 1966, and demanding an order directing the Commission to revoke its decision denying his claim and declaring ...


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