BREAKING NEWS: 9th Circuit Strikes Down Law on Genocide-Era Insurance Claims

The 9th Circuit Court

SAN FRANCISCO—Armenian Americans sharply criticized Thursday’s 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the Movsesian v. Versicherung case, which would effectively bar Americans of Armenian descent from seeking the return of stolen Armenian Genocide era insurance assets through U.S. courts, under California law.

“This ruling opens the door for foreign governments to try to roll back the clock on human rights, potentially putting at peril American grassroots efforts – along the lines of the anti-Apartheid, Darfur Genocide, and Free Tibet movements – that so often start at the state and local level, sometimes even against opposition at the federal level, before winning broad acceptance by the American people and the U.S. government,” stated ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.  “Turkey has no right to hold all three branches of the U.S. government hostage to its irrational and hateful denial of the Armenian Genocide, a crime that has already been broadly recognized by American civil society and government, once by a U.S. President, at least twice by the House of Representatives, 42 times by separate U.S. states, and hundreds of times by municipal governments in nearly every state of our union.  There is nothing in this judgment – or in any court ruling – that will stand in the way of our pursuit of a principled U.S. policy in support of a truthful, just, and comprehensive resolution of the Armenian Genocide.”

 “Today’s court ruling highlights the ongoing human costs of the White House’s complicity in Turkey’s denials of the Armenian Genocide, and underscores the urgency of President Obama honoring his pledge to properly recognize this crime against humanity,” concluded Hamparian.

In an 18-page ruling by the 9th Circuit Court, the Court found that a California law, which extended the statute of limitations for Armenian Genocide victims and their heirs to bring claims against corporations for unpaid benefits, “intrudes on the federal government’s exclusive power to conduct and regulate foreign affairs.”  The decision cites Turkey’s threats against countries which seek to properly commemorate this crime and President Obama’s reticence to refer to the crime as ‘genocide’ in his annual commemorative statements as among the reasons for their conclusion that the law “has a direct impact upon foreign relations and may well adversely affect the power of the central government to deal with those problems.”

The 9th Circuit Court decision specifically states that the court does not “offer any opinion about California’s ability to express support for Armenians by, for example, declaring a commemorative day.” Over 42 U.S. states have adopted resolutions or issued proclamations properly commemorating the Armenian Genocide.

Prior to the en banc consideration of the matter on December 14, 2011, California Attorney General Kamala Harris was joined by Hawai’i Attorney General David Louie, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, and Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin in defending California’s and other states’ rights to enact legislation referring to the Armenian Genocide. In a joint amicus brief, the Attorneys General argued that “[a]llowing the federal government to dictate to the states the words they may and may not use . . . raises a serious issue of federalism.” They also noted that in contrast to other cases preempting state laws, “here no treaty, congressional resolution or executive agreement establishes a federal foreign policy that conflicts with, or displaces” the California statute at hand.

California state and federal legislators, in a separate amicus brief, noted that “there is no precedent for holding a state statute preempted merely because of the terminology that it uses.” To do so would render the foreign affairs doctrine “beyond recognition.” They also assert that unlike other California statutes concerning Holocaust-era or World War II slave labor claims, which have been struck down, “there is no federal action to negotiate an international compensation regime for claims related to the Armenian Genocide.” The amicus brief was filed on behalf of U.S. Representatives Jackie Speier (D-CA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), and Ed Royce (R-CA); Speaker of the California State Assembly John Perez (D-46); Majority Leader of the California State Assembly Charles Calderon (D-58); California State Senators Kevin de León (D-22) and S. Joseph Simitian (D-11), and; California State Assembly Members Katcho Achadjian (R-33), Mike Gatto (D-43), and Anthony Portantino (D-44). Former Supreme Court clerk Igor Timofeyev of the international law firm Paul Hastings represented the California legislators pro bono.

Earlier in the case, the Armenian Bar Association, Armenian National Committee of America, Zoryan Institute for Contemporary Armenian Research and Documentation, Inc., the International Association of Genocide Scholars, Genocide Education Project, Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action, and Center for the Study of Law and Genocide filed amicus briefs and were represented “pro bono” by David Balabanian and David Salmons, both partners at the international firm Bingham McCutchen.

Amicus briefs in support of plaintiffs have also been submitted by Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), EarthRights International, and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Claims for unpaid life insurance policies dating back to the Armenian Genocide were first brought by plaintiff’s attorney Vartkes Yeghiayan. Attorneys representing plaintiffs include Brian Kabateck, Mark Geragos, and Lee Crawford Boyd.

The 9th Circuit case Movsesian v. Versicherung AG involves life insurance claims dating from the Armenian Genocide era. In 2000, California passed a law, which extended the statute of limitations for life insurance claims that were never paid out, in some cases because insurance companies insisted heirs produce death certificates of relatives, who were murdered during the Armenian Genocide, before honoring the policies. The California statute, which was introduced by former State Senator and current Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeal Charles ‘Chuck’ Poochigian and former State Senator and current Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), allowed California residents to file until December 31, 2010. The law has since been amended through legislation introduced by State Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-43), extending the statute of limitations to file claims until December 31, 2016. Defendant German insurance companies, which are being represented by the Los Angeles office of Mayer Brown, have been joined by the Republic of Turkey in their attempts to strike down California’s law, claiming there is an “express federal policy” to prohibit states from any reference to the Armenian Genocide.


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  1. Truth said:

    I would suggest that its is high time that Armenian government to get involved in all these… ‎and offer support. Armenia has many options which is not being used at all. Armenia is a subject of ‎international law and party to the Treaty of Sèvres .The dirty roll of German ‎Empire in Armenia Genocide is documented. It is high time that Armenia starts ‎speaking openly about demand of Armenian people form all these countries including US, ‎which did agree to the treaty of Lausanne by ignoring Armenian people and the ‎fact of Armenian Genocide committed by Turkey!‎

  2. AraK said:

    No surprise! President Obama openly praised Turkey’s and Erdogan’s friendship towards the US. And we are still hopeful for America’s impartiality towards our just cause. Double standards are alive and well…

  3. danoog said:

    This is what happens when the looney left runs the judiciary. Justice takes a beating. Keep voting for Democrats and you see the kind of people they appoint. The Ninth District is the looniest of the loony left districts.

  4. zareh said:

    miyayn zenkov gah hayotz pergoutyoun.

    Obama should be thrown out of office in November. His actions have been 100% pro-Turkish and 100% anti-Armenian.
    The guy is a liar of first degree.

  5. varoujan said:

    What else do you expect from the USA. If it does not benefit them then they will stab any race in the back.
    Shame on America. Shame.

  6. Alan said:

    The judge who wrote this opinion, Susan Pia Graber, is a very close friend and associate of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Bill Clinton from Yale Law School days:

    So there is a personal element involved here. The Clintons’ previous involvement in the Armenian Genocide issue negatively impacted Secretary Clinton’s support among Armenian-Americans when she ran for the Democratic Presidential nomination against Barack Obama in 2008. Her involvement in this court decision will negatively impact her support among Armenian-Americans should she choose to run for political office in the future.

  7. Vazken said:

    Thank you compatriot Armenians, for bringing out the Worst of the U.S.A. … as it was known to many silent (but weak) majority countries in the world that USA is not a country to find justice.
    After second World War well known phrase in Europe was called the “Ugly Americans”, came out of their cocoons the men in their grey-suits, pocketfull of paper money to buy every-thing in Europe that turns into Gold then usurped the world.
    In fact USA learned from Turks during World War I, how to make raid when opportunity come up.
    Following an extract from Vahan Cardashian: Advocate Extraordinaire for the Amenian Cause, Chapter V page 129: In Support of an Application for a Hearing by the U.S. Senate Upon the Lausanne Treaty: Mosul Oil and Armenia, by Vahan Cardashian-
    “ … The Department of State, However, after having secured a share in Mosul oil, through the sacrifice of Armenia now wants the oil in “Wilson Armenia”, and in an effort to attain its aim, it reputiates the arbitral act of the President and its own recognition of Armenian Republic.
    Neither the alleged attitude of Bolshevist Russia nor that of Turkey can have, insofar as America is cocerned, any greater weight than their attitude upon exclusively American matters. In our foreign relations, we are not guided by the opinion or attitude of others. We have no power to deny or repudiate the rights of Armenia, and we are bound to reserve and conserve those rights in our relations with the Powers concerned.
    The Department’s excuses to evade this Government’s obligation to Armenia have no valid legal or practical basis, but that there exists a motive back of that hostile attitude, and that motive is seizure of Armenian oil by a privileged groop.”

  8. Haik Azad said:

    There you have the good old shamerican justice in its best.And as the good old turkeys would say:Sticks and stones may break our bones but words will never hurt us.For `words` you may substitute shamerican justice.Long live the land of the free and home of the brave !!!

  9. bigmoustache said:

    this is beyond an outrage! how can make a decision like that and put our facts into politics?

    • Haik Azad said:

      And now ,mendzmoustachio,you can ask Castro,or the vietnamese,or any other socialists for that matter to help you out,and for starters you can trim down the most significant feature of your surat.

    • moral said:

      Maybe the bust would be to sue simply US government for siding with Turkey in its denial ‎and cover ups regarding the well documented Turkish lead genocide of Armenian People! ‎Today Turkey jointly with US are making profit out of en mass deported and killed ‎Armenians form there historic homeland ‎

      • Brad said:

        This is a great day in American history, now this fiasco has finally come to an end, “Your ATM Machine is out of business”.

        The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling Thursday was right on the money.

        This now means; no states and no cities can create or continue recognizing WWI as an Armenian genocide, or force this to be taught in any public school, hold assemblies in any public schools, on any public grounds, or use public assets for this cause. And by law city and state representatives in any capacity cannot help or assist with this effort. That would be interfering with international affairs, and it’s illegal.

        And it’s time to remove any and all signs that have been erected by our state regarding this issue, removed off our streets and highways.

        Why? It’s public land.

        Our system does work.

  10. Kirk said:

    Shame on us.We only blame others for our failures.
    Actually I am happy that the court turned down the law.
    These are bunch of lawyers filing suits with individual initiatives without accountability and without a mandate from a panarmenian body.
    This is a national issue which should be pursued by both Armenian government and one single body of diaspora representatives.
    The outcome demand should be BILLIONS,not millions that these lawyers are seeking.
    Enough is enough.Hillary did this,Bill did that,Obama did this.WHAT DID WE DO?

    • Parsik said:

      maladets, this is the most meanningful and useful comment for the benefit of Armenians at whole I have seen in long time in this site, even if ruling was to go through it was like feeding an elephent with couple of peanuts, tasty at first but deffinetly not filling at all!

  11. Haik Azad said:

    Next we must find some petrol in Armenia and sell it to the shamericans.We can also sell our souls to them,becoming shamerican citizens for a higher standard of living.After that we can never stop talking what great haiaser patriots we are while stuffing ourselves with any halal patlamish we can find.And dont forget to partratsir partratsur sireli ayfers.

  12. john minassian said:

    I am sure that Lockeed Martin probably bribed the court to make sure that Turkey would buy the F-35 stealth fighter.

  13. Raffikian said:

    If Syria is lost to Russia and Irak to Iran is because of Turkey doing little to help the West, they took all the Amrican Tax payers monies and improved their economy, the West did not realize that for few miltary contracts they are losing all the erea, today Turkey acts like a Superpower, Israel lost it’s shine to Turkey meanwhile is happy with left overs, selling their values in recognizing the Armenian Genocide for the sake of $1.6 Billion contract from Azerbaijan Why the West is still pampering Turkey as if nothing had happened is a mistery. maybe somebody or a group of people are getting kick backs?

  14. John Markarian said:

    Eventhough the US is a good country, the US justice system is deeply flawed and biased. The greatest flaw in the US justice system when compared to Continental European systems is that one judge can decide whereas in the European system a tribunal of several judges decide cases. This prevents judicial misconduct. How many examples of incompetent and immoral judges can I cite. Remember Latasha Harlans, the poor black girl who was killed by a Korean grocer which was recorded on security camera and the judge set the killer free. What about the Matthew Eapen case, where a British babysitter killed a little boy and was found guilty but the judge found that the time served was adequate and I am sure that the British government intervened in that case.. Another great example of bias is with the proposition 8 case where a gay appeals court judge overturned the proposition 8 case. The American justice system is Amazonian as professor John Langbein of Yale Law School described it.What about the story on 20/20 about the judges in Pennsylvania Juvenile court who actually owned a private jail and they sentenced small time juvenile delinquents to long jail sentences and made money from that. The American justice system only provides justice for the rich and the special interests. So many rich people have gotten away with horrible crimes such as torture and murder.

  15. John Markarian said:

    Powerful German banks use money to buy their perverted justice. I wish that the Armenians had as much power as the Jews because they certainly were able to defeat the German insurance companies and get big settlements. Talk about a double standard.

  16. John Markarian said:

    Another major flaw in the American justice system is that Governers and the President can pardon horrible criminals. Examples of a presidential pardon is in the case of President Clinton who pardoned his brother Roger Clinton Jr. who was involved in drug dealing. Governor Schwarzenegger pardoned the Estaban Nunez who murdered a man at a party. Estaban Nunez is the son of Fabian Nunez, former Speaker of the California State Assembly.The pardon system makes mockery of the justice system where those who are rich or have poltical power are pardoned.