The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Monday decided [opinion, PDF] to revisit a case to determine whether a California law declaring Armenian genocide in Turkey conflicts with US foreign policy. At issue is California Civil Procedure Code § 354.4 [text], which recognizes the World War I-era killings of more than one million Armenians by Turkish soldiers as a genocide. The Ninth Circuit has twice ruled on the issue. In December, the court reversed [opinion, PDF] its prior decision and allowed a suit by the heirs [JURIST report] of victims of the Armenian genocide [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] to proceed. The heirs are seeking life insurance payments from German insurance companies. The insurers argue that the law should be struck down [AP report] because both Turkey and the US do not recognize the Armenian genocide. The heirs and their lawyers maintain that the US does not have an official policy on the civil unrest in Turkey and, therefore, there is no conflict.
The Armenian genocide remains a contentious issue in US law and politics. In August 2010, a panel of the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit [official website] unanimously dismissed a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging the exclusion of materials questioning the Armenian genocide from a school curriculum. In March 2010, the Obama administration announced its opposition to a resolution [JURIST report] labeling the World War I-era killings as genocide. The announcement came after the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs passed the resolution [JURIST report] by a vote of 23-22. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Teyyip Erdogan condemned the resolution, and the Turkish government recalled its ambassador to the US.