SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal appeals court on Monday took up the issue of whether California law declaring there was an Armenian Genocide in Turkey conflicts with US foreign policy.
At issue is a state law that labels the deaths as genocide, allowing heirs of Armenians killed in the Turkish Ottoman Empire to pursue a lawsuit seeking life insurance payments from three German insurers.
It is the third time in two years the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals has confronted the question. In a rare move, the court reversed itself last year after a judge changed her mind and turned a two-to-one ruling rendered in 2009 in favor of insurers into a two-to-one decision supporting the heirs.
On Monday, the court’s chief justice announced that a majority of judges had voted to rehear the case — a move that wipes out the 2010 decision.
The insurers, which include Munich Re AG, argue California’s law should be struck down because it conflicts with US foreign policy, which they say sides with Turkey in refusing to call the Armenian deaths genocide.
Lawyers for the heirs argue those presidential views are not official policy. They say the US lacks a formal position, which means the California law is not in conflict with any national policy. Lawyers representing the heirs have filed similar lawsuits against New York Life Insurance Co. and French insurer AXA, which were settled in 2005 for a combined $37.5 million.