BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Everyone knows the current administration hasn’t been significantly better or worse, substantively, than previous presidential administrations when it comes to things Armenian. What has made the Obama administration particularly objectionable is the explicit Genocide related promise he made as a candidate, raising hopes to a very high level. But with Obama’s first foreign visit being to Turkey, the Armenia-Turkey protocols, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s despicable comments about the Genocide, the usual bias of the executive branch of the U.S. government has been shown in stark relief.
But now a German insurance company and the Turkish government, basically working together, have provided the Obama administration an opportunity to, at least partially, redeem itself.
Some background and reminders are necessary before going on. Less than two weeks ago, we learned that the U.S. Supreme Court has invited 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. You may recall that this is the case where a German insurance company (referred to as Victoria, initially, but now as Munich Re) has fought against paying the heirs of those who bought life insurance policies from it. This matter was heard three times by the 9th Circuit court, which ultimately decided that the California law was unconstitutional, based on a wrongheaded interpretation that the federal government’s rights preempt the ability of the states to pass laws such as the California one in question.
Now, the Supreme Court, which received some 2000 petitions to hear appeals, has decided to hear half a dozen of those, and has asked the Solicitor General for input on another half dozen. The California Munich Re case falls into that second group. So whether the Solicitor General does file a brief regarding this matter, and what that brief says, will have a large impact on the Supreme Court’s ultimate choice to hear the appeal or not, and what its final ruling will be.
What we want is for the Solicitor General to say “no, we have no policy regarding this matter” which means there can no question of “preemption”. This would then likely lead the Supreme Court to find that because there is no issue of preemption, the California law is constitutional, and will remain in force. If the Supreme Court finds otherwise, not only would the California life insurance law be invalidated, but the Turkish government would start twisting the meaning of the ruling. The Turks would argue that the proclamations and resolutions about the Genocide we have obtained from state and local legislatures and officials would become null and void, and future ones would be precluded. They would also use the same argument to try to eliminate state curriculum requirements that call for teaching of the Armenian Genocide.