09.22.09

Schiff Calls on Appeals Court to Rehear Case Regarding Insurance Claims of Armenian Genocide Victims

Official Seal of the US House of Representatives

Tuesday, September 22, 2009 Contact: Sean Oblack (202) 225-4176

Schiff Calls on Appeals Court to Rehear Case Regarding Insurance Claims of Armenian Genocide Victims

Washington D.C. – Congressman Adam Schiff, a Congressional Leader on Armenian issues and co-author of the California State law allowing family members of Armenian Genocide victims to request payment on the life-insurance policies of relatives, late yesterday filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in support of a petition for a rehearing before the entire Ninth Circuit Court. In late August, a three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit struck down the California state law which allowed the insurance claims, claiming the state law was pre-empted by federal policy. 

In the brief, Rep. Schiff argues that the federal government has never discouraged states from recognizing the Armenian Genocide or acted to pre-empt state efforts to allow insurance claims to go forward.  Schiff also pointed out that the state law contains a "severability" clause, meaning any reference held to be invalid can be severed from the rest of the law. 

“It would be a tragically unjust result – not to mention one unsupported by law -- for this court to deny relief to the victims of these atrocities because of the use of an historically accepted term that, however proper, could be severed from the statute by its own terms,” said Schiff.   “Nothing in law or equity compels such an injurious result.”
 
In the brief, Rep. Schiff points out that neither Congress nor the Executive Branch has ever taken a position or acted to preempt state efforts to resolve insurance claims of Armenian Genocide victims and their heirs.  Additionally, Rep. Schiff demonstrates that neither of these branches of government has ever acted to preempt or discourage states’ recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

The U.S. government has consistently recognized that 1.5 million Armenians lost their lives at the hands of the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923, and the federal government has always supported efforts by those who are the subject of horrific violence to obtain compensation for their injury – particularly when they have a valid contractual right to recover.