Lawyers to Appeal 9th Circuit Court Ruling

Attorney Mark Geragos

Attorney Mark Geragos

LOS ANGELES—Attorneys representing heirs of Armenian Genocide victims seeking life insurance payments on relatives’ policies before 2010 will appeal a ruling by a federal court, which rejected a California law that allowed the pursuit of such matters, attorney Mark Geragos told Asbarez Thursday. The appeal is set to be filed prior to September 10th.

In a telephone interview, Geragos, who is one of three attorney representing the victims’ heirs, said that attorneys will appeal the August 20 decision, which said the law amounted to unconstitutional meddling in US foreign policy, and ask for the matter to be heard by the entire US 9th Circuit Court of Appeal panel, what is known in legal terms as an “En Banc” hearing.

“It’s an absurd ruling… A wrongheaded ruling and we hope to get an ‘En Banc’ hearing,” said Geragos, explaining that the state law is preempted.

“Feds have not expressed an opinion they’ve said they have no opinion,” said Geragos. “This is purely an insurance issue. We are suing a company that’s in Europe. They had policies to pay.”

Representative Adam Schiff also called the court’s reasoning “peculiar and misguided.”

Then State Sen. Adam Schiff co-authored the law

Then State Sen. Adam Schiff co-authored the law

“This decision was focused on a law that Chuck Poochigian and I crafted when I was in the State Senate. I didn’t believe that our work was preempted by federal law then, and don’t believe it is preempted now,” Schiff told Asbarez.

The California Legislature passed the law giving heirs of Armenian Genocide victims until the end of next year to file claims for old bank accounts and life insurance policies, effectively extending the statute of limitations on such matters.

Schiff also said that the fact that California and 41 other states have recognized the Genocide should have prompted the court to make a different ruling.

“The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals is an affront to the Armenian American community and, if allowed to stand, sets a dangerous precedent by rewarding the Turkish Government’s efforts on the federal level to deny and cover-up the Armenian Genocide,” said Armenian National Committee-Western Region board chairman Vicken Sonentz-Papazian.

“The message this decision sends is that if you can threaten, cajole and stonewall the U.S. government into inaction on a ‘foreign policy’ issue, you can eliminate a valid and righteous claim of an American citizen in a U.S. court of law,” added Papazian.
Class-action lawsuits brought by heirs of Genocide victims in California and other states led to a $20 million settlement with New York Life Insurance Co. in 2005 and a $17 million settlement the same year with French life insurer AXA.

Geragos said the time had come for Armenians throughout the world to focus on the reparations issue.

“Clearly we should be bringing suits all over the world,” said Geragos, adding that in a society where such matters are decided by the judiciary, the community should become more active in the pursuit of large corporations, such as insurance companies and banks, that might be holding assets that belonged to Genocide victims.

“We have been focusing on the political aspects of the Genocide. We need to marry the political with the legal,” added Geragos.

“There should either be a reversal [of the ruling] by a higher court or legislative action to reframe the statute,” said Schiff who called on the community to urge an appeal. He also said he would be looking into possible federal legislation that might rectify the situation.

Geragos also urged the community to become more active in this matter, urging community organizations such as the ANC, the Armenian Bar Association and others to file amicus briefs in support of the ‘en banc’ review.

“This is a temporary setback and we will overcome this,” said Schiff. “Unfortunately, it just adds injury to injury.”

Discussion Policy

Comments are welcomed and encouraged. Though you are fully responsible for the content you post, comments that include profanity, personal attacks or other inappropriate material will not be permitted. Asbarez reserves the right to block users who violate any of our posting standards and policies.


  1. manooshag said:

    Hye, I guess Turks never bought any life insurance – did they? But their leaders did have the boldness to even ask then U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau to seek out (since there were not beneficiaries to the insurance policies to be found) and to claim these monies for the Turkish leaders. The hordes from the mountains of Asia, into today, continued with ‘mans’ inhumanity to man. Turkey for the Turks – only… It must gall the Turkish leadership today they were unable to collect these monies – another step to eliminate of all traces of the Armenians from their own lands of 3,000 years… Today, as millions and millions of peoples across the planet recognize the Armenian Genocide – in 20 civilized nations; 44 of the states of the United States of America; International Genocide foundations, the Vatican, and further, in all the Archives in of the nations whose citizens were witnesses of the Turkish slaughter of the Armenian peoples. Even further, this is all borne out also in our own Archives in the capital of the United States of America – Washington DC! Yet our leadership in the USA has been unable to use a word – GENOCIDE – for the Armenian Genocide – because the bully Turks will not permit this! Turkey says JUMP, State Department says HOW HIGH? This greatest democratic republic the world has known… why?

  2. Dave said:

    I read the court’s decision, and it’s not just a bad decision, but a ridiculous one.

    The crux of the California law was that Armenian holders of insurance policies, and their heirs, were deprived of the payments that they were owed. Whether the genocide was a genocide or not is incidental to this. If it were not a genocide, the Armenians would still be owed these payments.

    To show you how absolutely ignorant the 2 to 1 majority was, the decision said that there was no proof that other US states had recognized the Armenian genocide. The fact is that resolutions have been passed in many other states recognizing the Armenian genocide. Also, the US House has twice passed genocide resolutions, and President Reagan officially recognized the genocide in a presidential proclamation. All this can be found at http://www.armenian-genocide. org by clicking on International Affirmations.

    The two judges who ruled in this case are really stupid people if you read their decision. Their facts and reasoning were all skewed. I mean that there is real, deep-seated ignorance there, sort of like a monkey or other lower animal would rule if they were sitting on the bench, although I know I shouldn’t say that because monkeys and lower animals might take offense.

    My guess is that these judges were political appointees or law school dropouts.

  3. paul adjemian said:

    Thanks to our incompetence the Turks are having a field day, I suggest we bring in as many knowledgeable people as we can like Harut Sassounian amongst many others, this time do our homework properly, a loss will be devastating for our cause. No ego trips please.