WASHINGTON, DC – The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) 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 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.