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World War II Slave Labor, Holocaust & Armenian Genocide Claims

The Office of the Attorney General has been involved actively in defending the rights of victims of forced and slave labor during World War II, the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide to pursue claims against businesses that profited from the labor, deaths or injuries of the workers. The Attorney General has filed various "friend of the court" briefs and presented oral arguments in court to defend California laws intended to help these victims. The California Code of Civil Procedure section 354.6 extends the statute of limitations for claims brought for wages and injuries of persons who were forced to work for companies in Nazi Germany or its allies during World War II. Numerous claims were filed in state and federal court under the law. Many of these claims were consolidated in federal court in the Northern District of California as In Re: World War II Era Japanese Forced Labor Litigation.

The constitutionality of the state law was challenged by several corporations being sued. The Attorney General filed amicus briefs in Kim v. Ishikawajima, et al., defending the validity of the law. In January 2003, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court ruling that invalidated the state law. The Ninth Circuit decision was appealed to the United States Supreme Court and, on August 4, 2003, the California Attorney General filed a brief urging the high court to hear the case. Unfortunately, the high court refused to hear the case.

The Attorney General filed similar amicus briefs last year in two other cases that have reached the California Court of Appeal: Taiheiyo v. Superior Court (formerly Jeong v. Onoda Cement Co. Ltd.) and Mitsubishi v. Superior Court (Dillman). On January 15, 2003, the Court of Appeal in Taiheiyo unanimously upheld the constitutionality of Code of Civil Procedure section 354.6. In Mitsubishi, the Court of Appeal reached an opposite conclusion and held that plaintiffs' claims are barred. On April 20, 2003, the California Supreme Court agreed to hear both of these cases. However, on September 24, 2003, the Supreme Court ordered that these two cases be remanded to the Court of Appeal for reconsideration of the United States Supreme Court's decision in light of American Ins. Assn. v. Garamendi (June 23, 2003) __U.S.__ [123 S.Ct. 2374]. In both of these cases, the Court of Appeal determined that the U.S. Supreme Court decision required them to hold that Code of Civil Procedure section 354.6 is unconstitutional.

The Office of the Attorney General also filed an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Deutsch v. Turner Corporation. At issue in this case is the constitutionality of California Code of Civil Procedure section 354.6, which extends the statute of limitations for claims for unpaid wages and injury suffered by persons who were forced to work for little or no pay for private companies in Nazi Germany and its allies during World War II. The plaintiff is a Holocaust survivor who was forced to work for a private German corporation as a slave laborer during World War II. In the amicus brief, the Attorney General argues that section 354.6 does not violate the Due Process or Foreign Commerce Clauses of the U.S. Constitution, does not raise political questions that are nonjusticiable, and that the statute does not interfere with the foreign affairs powers reserved to the federal government. On January 21, 2003, the Ninth Circuit upheld the district court's holding that Code of Civil Procedure section 354.6 is unconstitutional.

The Office of the Attorney General also filed amicus briefs in Gerling Global Reins. Corp. of America v. Low, 240 F.3d 739, 753 (9th Cir. 2001) (Gerling) and in Gerling Global Reins. Corp. of America v. Low, Nos. 01-17023 and 01-17433. These Gerling cases address the constitutionality of the Holocaust Victim Insurance Relief Act (HVIRA), Insurance Code sections 13800-13807. The Attorney General argues that the HVIRA is constitutional. On January 10, 2003, the United States Supreme Court agreed to review the decision of the Ninth Circuit. On June 23, 2003, the Court held that HVIRA is unconstitutional.

Lastly, the Attorney General also filed an amicus brief in Marootian et al. v. New York Life Insurance Co., 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22274 (Bankr. C.D. Cal. 2001), supporting the validity of Code of Civil Procedure section 354.4, which extends the limitations period for the filing of insurance claims by victims of the Armenian Genocide.

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