Federal appeals court strikes down Armenian Genocide insurance claims law
Published: Friday August 21, 2009
Minneapolis - On August 20, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a California law that allowed the descendants of Armenian Genocide victims to sue in state courts for unpaid insurance benefits. The federal court ruled that the California law was unconstitutional because it conflicts with what it characterized as U.S. foreign policy not to recognize the Armenian Genocide as such.
"The federal government has made a conscious decision not to apply the politically charged label of ‘genocide' to the deaths of these Armenians during World War I," wrote Judge David Thompson for the majority of the three-judge panel. "Whether or not California agrees with this decision, it may not contradict it."
In dissent, Judge Harry Pregerson said that although the federal government declines to use the term "Armenian Genocide," he could find no evidence that the states were barred from doing so.
"There is no express federal policy forbidding California from using the term ‘Armenian Genocide' in the course of exercising its traditional authority to regulate the insurance industry," Judge Pregerson wrote.
"I think the decision is outrageous," said plaintiffs' attorney Brian Kabateck, who vowed to appeal for a rehearing. "If taken to its logical extension, what this decision means is that all 40 states that have recognized the Armenian Genocide have to set aside that recognition," he told the Los Angeles Times.