Supreme Court Invites Solicitor General to Offer US Government Position on Genocide-Era Life Insurance Case


The US Supreme Court

WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Solicitor General to file a brief detailing the U.S. government position on the Ninth Circuit Court decision earlier this year which struck down a California law that allowed Armenian Americans to pursue Genocide-era life insurance claims, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

“The ANCA welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision today to ask the Solicitor General to offer the U.S. Government’s position on Armenian Genocide-era insurance claims,” stated ANCA Government Affairs Director Kate Nahapetian. “The right to seek redress from insurance companies and banks which have improperly profited from the genocide-era murders of their parents and grandparents should be absolute. We look to the Solicitor General to ensure that American moral values and property rights are not trumped by foreign—in this case Turkish Government—intervention.”

The U.S. Solicitor General will have several months to review and file its brief regarding the Ninth Circuit Court decision, after which the Supreme Court will decide whether or not to hear the case.

The Supreme Courts decision is the latest in a long and complex legal history that has included three separate and conflicting opinions from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the most recent on February 23, 2012. That decision struck down a California law extending the statute of limitations for certain life insurance claims based on an unprecedented expansion of the rarely invoked doctrine of foreign affairs field preemption. In its ruling, the Ninth Circuit invalidated the California statute because Turkey opposes references to the Armenian Genocide and the use of the term.

Plaintiffs’ petition to the Supreme Court to hear the case was filed by Igor Timofeyev of Paul Hastings, LLP. A series of amicus briefs were filed in support of the plaintiff’s petition including a filing by the Attorneys General from the States of California, Michigan, Nevada, and Rhode Island and another by U.S. Federal and State legislators, filed by attorneys Mary-Christine Sungaila and Seepan Parseghian at the firm of Snell and Willmer, LLP.

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.

The complete set of filings can be viewed at: http://www.anca.org/legal/insuranceclaims

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

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