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Pro Bono



Thaddeus J. Stauber is a partner in Nixon Peabody LLP’s Commercial Litigation and International Arbitration groups and is head of the firm’s Art and Cultural Institutions team. In court room trials and proceedings involving commercial matters, federal contracts, real estate, intellectual property and privacy rights, personal reputations, contractual disputes, contested estates, wrongful death claims, insurance coverage and priceless art masterpieces, Thad has successfully represented his clients’ interests, including winning cases in state and federal courts around the country and other arbitral bodies. In just the last several years, he has argued and won highly contested cases in state and federal courts ranging from California to Ohio to Louisiana to New York.

Thad began his career as a criminal defense and civil trial attorney. He has presented, cross examined, and deposed witnesses from all walks of life, including high ranking governmental and foreign officials, company presidents and CFOs, boards of directors and trustees, attorneys, valuation and accounting experts, entertainment industry players, widows, death row and state penitentiary inmates, police officers, victims of major crimes, juveniles, Holocaust survivors, art curators and historians, professors, and students.

His clients include the world’s leading cultural institutions, foreign sovereigns, public agencies, international art collectors and dealers, private equity investors, commercial real estate entities, entertainment related companies, private companies, and individuals. His litigation and court room skills, judgment, and negotiation abilities have won his clients tens of millions of dollars, saved hundreds of jobs, kept innocent men and women out of prison, and protected company and personal reputations and assets.

In addition to his litigation work, Thad represents museums, major collectors, and dealers in significant transactions, including recently serving as deal counsel on the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Fisher Family agreement. The SFMOMA-Fisher Agreement brought the world renowned Fisher Collection to SFMOMA and includes a complex development agreement put together by Thad as the road map for SFMOMA’s expansion over the next five years.

As a former general counsel and advisor to the firm’s Public Finance group, Thad has been an integral team member helping our team assist clients in nearly $1 billion in public financings for major museum projects across the country.

Examples of his recent courtroom work and victories:

Commercial & Public Agency Reported Cases

  • Goodness Films, LLC, et al v. TV One, LLC, et al.: Lead counsel for TV One, a leading TV network targeting the African-American community with over 38 million cable subscribers, in a copyright dispute before the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.  Won contested Motion for Preliminary Injunction over the 2012 holidays allowing for on-schedule premiere and airing of the new TV One’s series Belle’s.
  • TV One LLC v. BET Networks, et al.: Plaintiff’s counsel for TV One in its case in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California centered upon the exclusive broadcast rights to the 2010 ESSENCE Musical Festival. The lawsuit alleges that BET Networks, Northstar Media LLC, Music World Music LLC (MWM), Matthew Knowles and Pat McDonald violated TV One’s exclusive broadcast rights to the 2010 Festival and illegally aired TV One’s exclusive two-hour special of 2010 Festival music highlights featuring performances by a variety of artists such as Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys, LL Cool J, and Jill Scott.
  • HACLA v. HUD: Housing Authority for the City of Los Angeles’ special litigation counsel against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development obtaining a federal court injunction over the objection of the U.S. Department of Justice stopping HUD from terminating HACLA’s $284 million annual federal contract. Deposed high ranking federal agency official in Washington, D.C and successfully negotiated HUD’s award of the contract back to HACLA on the eve of further federal court proceedings. The win for HACLA saved over 200 full-time jobs in Los Angeles and netting HACLA millions of dollars in revenue that is utilized to support vital social and community services to the residents of Los Angeles’ public and affordable housing community.
  • In re Strobeck Real Estate: Trial counsel in million-dollar breach of contract and bankruptcy claim upheld on appeal in the Sixth Circuit. Established case precedent on valuation methodology of long-term commercial leases in national retail chain bankruptcy.
  • School of the Art Institute of Chicago v. Art Institutes International: Plaintiff’s lead counsel in successful federal common law trade name infringement case in 7th Circuit district court against international trade school.
  • In re Stern Estate: Plaintiff’s trial counsel winning multimillion-dollar trial verdict overturning estate for undue influence.
  • In Estate of Friend: Plaintiff’s lead counsel obtaining eight-figure cash settlement for Chicago’s premier civic and cultural institutions over estate trustee’s objection on eve of trial.
  • Sarah Blodgett Dunbar v. Dr. Seger-Thomschitz: Lead counsel for plaintiff on the international provenance investigation and prosecution of a successful federal court action affirming his client’s rightful ownership of an important and seminal German Expressionist painting by Oskar Kokoschka entitled Portrait of a Youth (Hans Reichel) (1910). Lead counsel on 5th Circuit Court of Appeal oral argument conducted on June 9, 2010, in New Orleans opposing claimant defendant’s effort to have the Terezin Declaration displace Louisiana law based on a federal preemption argument.
  • DIA & TMA v. Nathan: Plaintiffs’ counsel leading the international provenance investigation and victory for the Detroit Institute of Arts and Toledo Museum of Art in companion federal court cases brought in the Sixth Circuit establishing the museums’ rightful ownership to priceless van Gogh and Gauguin paintings over that of U.S. and foreign claimants. These were the first U.S. museums to file and win declaratory actions in federal court lawsuits arising from post–World War II Holocaust-related art restitution claims.
  • David de Csepel v. Republic of Hungary: Lead counsel to the Republic of Hungary and four of its leading museums and cultural institutions in current federal court litigation in Washington, D.C. over the Herzog Collection. The NY Times has reported the case to be the largest unresolved art restitution case in the world.
  • Cassirer v. the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation and the Kingdom of Spain: Lead counsel to the world-renowned Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation; successfully refuted challenge to Foundation’s ownership and possession of important artwork by Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro. Lead counsel on rare en banc oral argument, addressing issues of first impression regarding Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act of 1976 (FSIA). Filed petition for a writ of certiorari on client’s behalf challenging jurisdiction under the FSIA. After the Supreme Court called for the views of the Solicitor General, met with the Deputy Solicitor General and members of the U.S. Departments of State and Justice. Following the meeting, the Office of the Solicitor General recommended that the Kingdom of Spain be dismissed. On remand to the district court, prevailed on a motion to dismiss on the ground that a newly-enacted California statute, which expanded the statute of limited to permit plaintiffs’ claims, was preempted by the federal government’s foreign affairs power.
  • Fourcaud v. LACMA: Led successful defense and dismissal of adverse ownership claims to world famous Pushkin Museum French Impressionist paintings while on exhibition in the U.S. from Russia. Claims arose from Russian Revolution and nationalization of famous art collections by Stalin and where brought in the 9th Circuit federal court by a French citizen.

Art Restitution Claims Resolved and Acquisitions Negotiated:

  • The Art Institute of Chicago, Yale University Art Gallery, Detroit Institute of Arts, SFMOMA, Art Dealer/Galleries and Private Collectors: Since 1995, Mr. Stauber has led international provenance investigations in Europe and the U.S., interviewed, deposed, and negotiated with Holocaust survivors, their heirs, and representatives, and counseled museum directors, major boards of trustees, foundations, gallery owners, general counsels, and private collectors, resulting in groundbreaking resolutions and acquisitions involving artworks and cultural property alleged confiscated by the Nazis during World War II or cultural property unlawfully exported or imported from its source country into the U.S. He has also negotiated and facilitated the acquisition or loans of major international artworks and artifacts for numerous institutions and collectors.

Criminal Defense & Pro Bono Work

Defense trial counsel on cases ranging from attempted murder, rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking, sexual assault, defamation, 1st Amendment, and death penalty post-trial conviction appeal. Obtained numerous jury trial acquittals.

Speaking Engagements

  • “Title Disputes in Art Transactions and Their Effect on Estate Plans,” Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning
  • “A Fiduciary’s Nightmare in the Disposition of Personal Property,’ Hawaii Tax Institute
  • “WWII Art Repatriation Claims & What Role for the U.S. Courts,” Federal Bar Council
  • International Bar Association, Wealth Transfer Practice
  • College Art Association Annual Conference, Art Claims
  • American Association of Museums Annual Conference, Tax-Exempt Financing for Museum Projects
  • ALI-ABA Legal Problems in Museum Administration

Media Clips

  • The dealmaker behind the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Fisher Family partnership
    Art Daily | May 16, 2016
    This article features Nixon Peabody’s role as deal counsel and advisor to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and the Fisher Family to create a first-of-its-kind collaboration between a museum and a collection. Los Angeles partner and Arts & Cultural Institutions leader Thad Stauber led the NP team in this unprecedented agreement with support from Washington, DC, partner Mike Cooney and Los Angeles partner Matt Grazier. SFMOMA opened to the public on May 14, featuring an expansive new addition displaying hundreds of pieces of postwar and contemporary art work from the Fisher Family.
  • Why two American museums are fighting to keep art stolen by the Nazis
    The Washington Post | June 30, 2015

    Nixon Peabody partner and head of the firm’s Art and Cultural Institutions team Thaddeus Stauber is quoted in this article discussing recent art restitution cases. The article calls Thaddeus one of the leaders in defending museums in such cases.

  • Judge Rejects Claim for a Pissarro by Heirs in Nazi Art Case
    The New York Times | June 10, 2015
    This feature article focuses on a recent U.S. District Court ruling in favor of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation and the Kingdom of Spain in an artwork dispute that spanned a decade. Los Angeles commercial litigation partners Thad Stauber and Sarah André represented the Foundation in this dispute.
  • . . . View all . . .
  • Will There be Life After Death for New Private Museums?
    The Art Newspaper | January 7, 2015
    Los Angeles Commercial Litigation partner and head of the firm’s Art & Cultural Institutions team Thad Stauber is quoted in this column discussing the futures of the single-donor museum following the passing of the founder. The coverage notes Thad arranged San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s 100-year loan of the world renowned Don and Doris Fisher Collection.


Thaddeus J. Stauber