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Attorney General Lockyer Says U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Harms California's Ability to Provide Justice for Victims of Slave Labor

Monday, June 23, 2003
Contact: (415) 703-5837

(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today issued the following comment regarding the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in American Insurance Association, et al., v. John Garamendi, Insurance Commissioner, State of California.

"I am extremely disappointed in the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling striking down a California law aimed at addressing historical wrongs committed by Nazi Germany, which engaged in genocide, slavery and the theft of Jewish assets, including life and property insurance policies.

"Today's ruling places the interests of the world's insurance companies ahead of Holocaust victims and the people of California. It will make it more difficult for survivors of the Holocaust and their relatives to obtain justice. It also denies Californians access to information they need to make informed decisions about their own insurance policies.

"I respectfully disagree with the court's finding that California's law interferes with the ability of the United State's government to enact and implement foreign policy. The law merely asks that insurance companies that choose to do business in California embrace a basic American value by taking responsibility for their actions. The court's sweeping opinion casts doubt on the fate of other state laws currently being challenged in court that seek to achieve the same objective."

In 1998, California made it an unfair business practice for any insurer operating in the state to fail to pay any valid claim from Holocaust survivors. The law struck down by the court today required insurance companies to turn over policy documentation in their possession, and those who refused would not be permitted to operate in this state.

Four other related cases currently are being litigated. Two are before the California Supreme Court, and two other 9th Circuit rulings are pending before the U.S. Supreme Court on petitions for writ of certiorari. The California Supreme Court has agreed to hear Mitsubishi Materials Corporation, et al. v. Superior Court, and Taiheijo Cement Corporation, et al. v. Superior Court. The cases pending before the U.S. Supreme Court are Kim, Suk Yoon, et al. v Ishikawajima Harima Industries, and Tenney v. Mitsui & Co., Ltd., et al.

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