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Don Burris


You may know him from one of the greatest legal stories of all time--the Supreme Court Altmann case for which Don spent many years as Randy Schoenberg’s right-hand man in seeking some justice for Maria Altmann in the federal courts for the Nazi looting of a number of virtually priceless works belonging to Maria’s uncle, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer. The background story was captured very well in the classic film “Woman in Gold” which starred Ryan Reynolds and Helen Mirren. Since their 3-0 victory in the final Austrian arbitration proceeding, Randy has turned his attention to philanthropic activities and Don has become the “voice of the firm,” presenting almost 80 talks about his continuing work all over the United States and Canada and in at least seven (7) other countries (England, France, Belgium; Luxembourg, Israel, Brazil  and Holland). ] The 6-3 decision remains the most direct recognition by the United States Supreme Court of the rights of a Holocaust survivor to reclaim stolen artwork many years after the destruction of Hitler’s evil Third Reich. See Republic of Austria v. Altmann, 541 U.S. 677 (2004).

The remainder of Don’s fifty year resume reads like a Frank Merriwell novel. The son of a lower middle class first generation Russian-Polish-American family Don was named to the Dean’s List at Alfred University and was at the top of his 1969 class at the Georgetown Law Center and Editor-in-Chief of the school’s Law Journal. After a year in San Francisco clerking for the Honorable James R. Browning, Jr., who served for fifty years on the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, Don returned to Washington and worked there for a well-respected firm as a litigation attorney for three years. In 1974 Professor  Samuel Dash and Senator Sam Ervin (who Don remembers as “the good Sams”) invited Don to serve on the legal staff of the U.S. Senate Watergate Committee, where he served with distinction as a representative of the Committee until the staff completed its Final Report and turned over its findings to the House of Representatives Impeachment Committee.


In 1976, with Watergate behind him and with Gerald Ford having taken over the reins of the Presidency, Don moved with his family to Santa Monica, passed the California Bar and began working in a firm which formed the foundation for his current firm,


During these fifty years Don somehow had time to be a professor at the Georgetown Law School and the Loyola (Los Angeles) Law School and provided hours of service to the Georgetown

Law Alumni Board and to a wide-range of non-profit entities in California and elsewhere. Throughout all these experiences, Don’s mission has been to connect with creative and caring people and to connect with the brightest to create extraordinary things. It is these goals and other related objectives that led Don to contact our Chairman, Andrew Heldut and Vice-Chairman, Pooja Bhatia, who expeditiously created an outstanding Board of Founders, who in turn have collectively assembled and structured the Institute to not only share their talents and experiences with the world but to work toward our specific basic purpose -- to continue developing a selfless mission of cultural preservation and sustainable development. We invite everyone who cares about the world and its people to join us in fulfilling our mission.

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