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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Squires Sanders Seeks to Withdraw as Counsel to Russia in Sacred Jewish Text Case

By Andrew Longstreth
January 22, 2009

Last June, we reported on a case filed against the Russian Federation by members of Chabad-Lubavitch, an Orthodox Jewish movement that seeks to reclaim sacred religious texts allegedly stolen by Russia's government. After a D.C. federal district court judge dismissed some of Chabad's claims, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reinstated them, allowing the case to move forward.

But since then, things apparently have not gone so well between Russia and its lawyers at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey. Last week, the firm filed a motion requesting to withdraw as Russia's counsel in the case. Squire Sanders lawyers cite a "breakdown in communications" with their client, alleging that the Russians repeatedly ignored their request for instructions in how to proceed. They also say they haven't been paid, and claim that Russia has been in default on its legal bills since April 2008. (Their papers don't say by how much.) A Squire Sanders spokesperson declined comment to the Litigation Daily.

The case, meanwhile, continues. On Thursday, Washington, D.C., federal district court judge Royce Lamberth indicated he would grant a temporary restraining order requested by the plaintiffs, who had alleged that Russia planned to sell some of the sacred texts at issue in Israel. According to the AP, Judge Lamberth said he would order Russia to protect and retrieve any documents that may have been removed from the Russian State Military Archives.

The plaintiffs in the case are represented by Nathan Lewin of Lewin & Lewin. Lawyers from Bingham McCutchen and Howrey are also working on the case with Lewin.

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