Supreme Court Petitioned to Review Genocide Insurance Case

Supreme Court Petitioned to Review Genocide Insurance Case

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

The US Supreme Court

Attorneys General of California, Michigan, Nevada, and Rhode Island
and Several Federal and State Legislators Also File Amicus Briefs in
Support of Armenian American Property Claims

WASHINGTON – The Armenian National Committee of America joined an amicus
brief this week to uphold a California law that protects the property
rights of Armenian Americans, who were denied life insurance benefits
during and after the Armenian Genocide.

The filing follows 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, striking down the
California statute, based on an unprecedented expansion of the rarely
invoked doctrine of foreign affairs field preemption. In its ruling,
the Ninth Circuit invalidated the California law extending the statute
of limitations for certain life insurance claims, because Turkey
opposes references to the Armenian Genocide and the use of the term.

Kate Nahapetian, Government Affairs Director of the ANCA, stated `We
want to express our deep appreciation to the Attorney General of
California Kamala Harris and Attorneys General Masto, Kilmartin and
Schuette for joining in our fight for justice. We also want to thank
all the federal and state legislators who filed an amicus brief and
all the attorneys, who have given so generously of their time free of
charge. We are confident that we will prevail in our fight against
Munich Re, as they continue to aid and abet Turkey’s campaign of
genocide denial.’

The ANCA joined the amicus brief in support of plaintiffs’ appeal to
the Supreme Court, along with the Armenian Bar Association, Zoryan
Institute for Contemporary Armenian Research and Documentation, Inc.,
Genocide Education Project, Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action,
Center for the Study of Law & Genocide, and the International Human
Rights Clinic of the University of Southern California Gould School of
Law. The team of lawyers from the law firm of Bingham McCutchen, led
by partner David Balabanian, who have generously been offering free
legal representation on this case for several years, filed the brief.

Appellate attorney and former Supreme Court clerk Igor Timofeyev of
the law firm Paul Hastings filed the original appeal to the Supreme
Court on behalf of plaintiffs in June 2012, urging the Court to
overturn the Ninth Circuit’s recent en banc ruling. Parties
interested in supporting plaintiffs’ appeal had until August 1, 2012
to file their amicus briefs.

Other parties supporting plaintiffs’ appeal were California Attorney
General Kamala Harris, who was joined by Nevada Attorney General
Catherine Cortez Masto, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, and
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin. Attorneys General
Masto and Kilmartin had also joined Attorney General Harris on a
previous amicus brief, when it was before the Ninth Circuit. Leading
up to the filing, the ANCA had organized a citizen campaign to engage
Attorneys General from across the country about the importance of this
case and defending Armenian American property claims.

A third amicus brief was filed by several federal and state
legislators, including Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), who was a
lead author of the California statute at issue when she was a
California State Senator, 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).

Congressman Berman, explaining his support for the brief stated, `I
stand by the Armenian-American community in their quest for justice.’

The law firm of Snell & Wilmer led by partner Mary-Christine Sungaila
and attorney Seepan Parseghian provided generous pro bono assistance
for the filing of the legislators’ brief.

Armenian Bar Association Chairman Garo Ghazarian stated, `The Armenian
Bar Association thanks our first Chairman David Balabanian, the
Bingham law firm, ANCA and our other partners for having put together
a strong brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a decision
that parted ways with basic precedent and our nation’s fundamental
approach to state sovereignty and redress for injustice. Our
collective resolve is at an all time high in our pursuit of proper
application of the law in this case and beyond.’

Balabanian explained, `We are asking the Supreme Court to grant a
hearing and either reverse the Ninth Circuit outright or direct it to
reconsider its ruling in light of the Supreme Court’s recent Arizona
immigration law decision, with which the Ninth Circuit’s ruling
directly conflicts.’

Leading up to the filing of the amicus briefs, the ANCA secured the
support of and coordinated a team of attorneys, who provided
assistance and guidance in the case. The ANCA also organized a
meeting with the U.S. State Department’s Legal Advisor Harold Koh to
discuss the case.

The Ninth 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. Defendant Munich Re, a German insurance
company, which is represented by Neil Soltman of Mayer Brown has been
joined by the Republic of Turkey in its attempts to strike down
California’s law, claiming it is unconstitutional for states to
reference the Armenian Genocide.

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.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS