Obama Asks Supreme Court Not to Hear Insurance Claims Case


WASHINGTON—The Obama Administration urged the Supreme Court not to hear the appeal of the Ninth Circuit’s 2012 decision striking down a California law extending the statute of limitations on Armenian Genocide-era life insurance claims, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

“President Obama, rather than filing a brief based on the merits of this case, chose instead — on the eve of Prime Minister Erdogan’s visit to Washington, DC — to send Ankara a political gift by both deepening his administration’s complicity in the denial of the Armenian Genocide and also obstructing justice for American citizens seeking redress through the US courts,” said Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Executive Director Aram Hamparian.  “We will, despite the president’s retreat from principle, persevere in pursuit of the justice owed the Armenian nation.”

In a 27-page brief submitted to the Supreme Court last week, the US Solicitor General argues that the California law improperly allows courts “to issue judgments based on politically contentious events that occurred in the Ottoman Empire nearly a century ago, with no substantial basis to claim that it is regulating in an area of its traditional authority.”

It also makes reference to selective Executive branch opposition to Armenian Genocide legislation, but not the US record of recognition of the Armenian Genocide as a crime of genocide, including:

1. The US government’s May 28, 1951 written statement to the International Court of Justice regarding the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, in which the “Turkish massacres of Armenians” is cited among other “outstanding examples of the crime of  genocide”

2. President Ronald Reagan’s April 22, 1981 Proclamation number 4838; in which he stated, in part, “like the genocide of the Armenians before it, and the genocide of the Cambodians, which followed it — and like too many other persecutions of too many other people — the lessons of the Holocaust must never be forgotten.”

The Supreme Court, which had 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.

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.