Supreme Court Set To Decide Next Week Whether to Consider Genocide-Era Life Insurance Case

US Supreme Court

Legislators Comment on Amicus Brief Urging Supreme Court Consideration

WASHINGTON—The US Supreme Court is scheduled to issue its decision next week on whether to review an earlier Ninth Circuit Court decision striking down a California law, which would allow Armenian Americans to pursue Genocide-era life insurance claims.  The Court will be reviewing petitions filed over the summer at their September 24 conference before publicly issuing their decisions soon after, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

Last month, U.S. Federal and State legislators filed an amicus brief in support of the Armenian American plaintiffs’ petition to the Supreme Court to review the flawed decision.  The Members of Congress included Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Howard Berman (D-CA), Representatives David Cicilline (D-RI), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Ed Royce (R-CA), Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Brad Sherman (D-CA).  Members of the legislature of the State of California who joined the brief were Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, Majority Leader of the Assembly Charles Calderon (D-58), Senator Kevin de León (D-22), Assembly Members Katcho Achadjian (R-33) and Anthony Portantino (D-44).

Snell & Wilmer LLP, led by appellate partner and Counsel of Record Mary-Christine Sungaila and associate attorney Seepan Parseghian, prepared the legislators’ amicus brief on a pro bono basis. The amicus brief catalogued the decades of state and local-level legislation that determined invest guidelines with foreign states, from statutes divesting from South Africa, Sudan, and Iran to policies targeted at promoting foreign trade.  “State and local legislators will be unable to protect their communities’ interests adequately if they are forbidden to act in ways that could be construed to impact foreign affairs even tangentially,” outlined the brief.  The brief further explained, “Globalization has added an increasingly international dimension to policy areas that the Court has determined to be within traditional state competence.. . . .  The Ninth Circuit’s decision ignores these realities, and, as we explain, threatens the viability of a wide range of state and local legislation.”

The complete amicus brief is available here.
http://www.anca.org/legal/insuranceclaims/amicus_arzoumanian_legislators.pdf

House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-CA) explained, “This brief advances what the State of California tried to do – ensure rightful compensation . . . from insurance companies that issued policies prior to the Armenian Genocide.   I stand by the Armenian-American community in their quest for justice.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) noted, “The Ninth Circuit erred in its rulings on the appeal and if not corrected by the Supreme Court, would set a dangerous precedent for other states . . .    It’s particularly disturbing that the Republic of Turkey has joined the fight against genocide victims once again by supporting the German insurance company that now contests the claims of the victims.”

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) stated, “I am pleased to join the amicus brief petitioning the Supreme Court to review the Armenian Genocide-era life insurance case.  We should uphold the important California law that protects the property rights of Americans who were wrongly denied life insurance benefits during and after the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923.  I am confident that we will prevail in our fight against those who aid Turkey’s campaign of Genocide denial and that we will obtain justice for the victims.”

Other amicus briefs were filed in support of plaintiffs’ petition to the Supreme Court, including a filing by the Attorneys General from the States of California, Michigan, Nevada, and Rhode Island.  Human rights and public policy groups, including the Armenian Bar Association and ANCA, also filed an amicus brief and were represented pro-bono by Bingham McCutchen, LLP, led by partner David Balabanian.

Plaintiffs’ petition to the Supreme Court was filed by Igor Timofeyev of Paul Hastings, LLP on a pro bono basis as well.

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3 Comments

  1. sam said:

    I’m skeptical, but hopeful, that this litigation is not being hijacked by disinterested parties, i.e. the otar litigators, to grandstand in front of the Supreme Court. Remember that the U.S. is a common law jurisdiction, and, what’s more, follows stare decisis. Which means that if the current court holds against the Petitioners (Armenians), the precedent remains–almost indefinitely. To be more specific, I hope our chances of prevailing were closely assessed and this is not a shot in the dark, allowing a group of superannuated justices to give their two cents on the Armenian Genocide.

    • Armen said:

      This case has nothing to do with the Armenian Genocide Sam – it is simply a case of one group of people seeking recourse for a breach of contract. The insurance companies failed to honor their side of the agreement and pay benefits to the families of the insured. The less we make this an issue of the Armenian Genocide, the more amenable the Supreme Court will become to rule in favor of the appellants.

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