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Attorney General Lockyer Defends the Rights of Holocaust Victims and World War II Slave Laborers

Tuesday, August 14, 2001
Contact: (415) 703-5837

(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer took another major step in defending the constitutionality of California laws that allow World War II-era slave laborers and victims of the Holocaust to seek compensation from private companies that were enriched by their forced services and unpaid insurance claims.

"The California laws under attack seek basic justice for victims of the Holocaust who have insurance claims pending and for World War II-era slave laborers who were deprived of wages as slave labor victims," Lockyer said. "The California laws address state issues while avoiding foreign relations and foreign policy. The laws are narrowly tailored remedies for abuses by businesses that unconscionably enriched themselves by using slave labor or by failing to pay insurance claims."

In a federal court case, Gerling Global Reinsurance Corp. v. Low, the Attorney General filed a "friend of the court" brief supporting the constitutionality of California's Holocaust Victims Insurance Relief Act (California Insurance Code sections 13800-13807). This California law requires that insurance companies, seeking to do business in California, provide information regarding insurance claims from the Holocaust Era. Agreeing with the Attorney General, in March 2001, the Ninth Circuit held that this law neither interfered with existing treaties nor intruded upon United States foreign relations. In a related case, Lockyer has filed a "friend of the court" brief defending the state law under which victims of the Armenian Genocide are seeking to recover insurance policy benefits, Martin Marootian, et al v. NY Life Insurance Co.

Lockyer has also defended California's Second World War Slave and Forced Labor Victim Act (Code of Civil Procedure section 354.6), which allows World War II slave and forced laborers to sue private companies for the wages they were deprived of as laborers. This law was challenged in World War II Era Japanese Forced Labor Litigation, which is a multi-district suit pending in federal court. The case involves several consolidated class actions by various Holocaust era victims against Japanese companies. In a "friend of the court" brief, filed August 2000, the Attorney General told the court that this California law applies only to private companies and neither interferes with any existing treaties nor intrudes into foreign relations.

The constitutionality of section 354.6 has recently been challenged in Los Angeles Superior Court by Onoda Cement Co., Ltd., which was sued by a former Korean slave laborer seeking compensation. The Attorney General lodged a letter with the court defending the constitutionality of this law. In addition, plaintiff has asked the court to take judicial notice of the Attorney General's August 2000 "friend of the court" brief, In re World War II Era Japanese Forced Labor Litigation.

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