WASHINGTON, DC – The Obama Administration will likely respond in the coming days to a request by the Supreme Court for a brief detailing the U.S. government’s position on the Ninth Circuit’s 2012 decision striking down a California law extending the statute of limitations on Armenian Genocide-era life insurance claims.
The Supreme Court, which requested the Administration’s brief in October of 2012, will consider the Solicitor General’s position, along with several “friend of the court” briefs defending the California Armenian Genocide-era life insurance law, including one filed by California Attorney General Kamala Harris, Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, and Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin.
“We look to the Solicitor General to protect the property rights of all American citizens and not close the doors of justice to certain vulnerable minorities, when they seek redress from insurance companies and banks which have improperly profited from criminal conduct. We look to the Solicitor General to ensure that property rights are not trumped by foreign – in this case Turkish Government – intervention,” said Kate Nahapetian, Government Affairs Director of the Armenian National Committee of America, who has been assisting with the case for several years.
The case has traveled a long and complex legal path, which 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 the 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 law, which was unanimously passed by the legislature, because of Turkish government threats aimed at silencing discussion of the Armenian Genocide in the United States.
Plaintiffs’ petition to the Supreme Court to hear the case was filed by Igor Timofeyev of Paul Hastings, LLP. Claims for unpaid life insurance policies dating back to the Armenian Genocide were first brought by plaintiffs’ attorney Vartkes Yeghiayan. Attorneys who have been representing plaintiffs include Lee Crawford Boyd, Rajika Shah, Mark Geragos, and Brian Kabateck.
A series of amicus briefs were filed in support of the plaintiffs’ petition including a filing 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, Armenian National Committee of America, 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 also filed an amicus brief and were represented by Bingham McCutchen, LLP, led by partner David Balabanian.