Next stop for reparations

by Walter Olson on February 18, 2004

Despite a federal judge’s recent dismissal of one slavery-era suit (see Jan. 30), reparations advocates are hoping to score a comeback with a lawsuit demanding damages 82 years after the fact for a lethal rampage by white rioters against black residents of Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1921. They’ll have to overcome both sovereign immunity and the statute of limitations, though. (Scott Gold, “Reparations Sought Decades After Race Riot”, Los Angeles Times, Feb. 13). And New York Life has agreed to hand over $20 million to settle claims arising under policies sold to ethnic Armenians in the former Ottoman Empire, many of whom were murdered during the rise of modern Turkey in “a deliberate, systematic and government-controlled genocide that began in April 1915,” according to a statement by California insurance commissioner John Garamendi, who announced the settlement (Armenian-Americans are a potent ethnic lobby in California.) Of the $20 million, $11 million will be set aside for heirs and $3 million for Armenian civic organizations, leaving somewhere around $6 million for lawyers who include Mark Geragos, William Shernoff and Brian Kabateck. According to the last-named of these, the settlement “is the result of a very personal campaign to bring attention to the history of the Armenian Genocide.” The news accounts do not reveal what if any role the court system and insurance law of present-day Turkey — the government of which rejects the genocide charge — might have been allowed to play in the disposition of the claims (“Calif. Commissioner Announces Settlement on Behalf of Survivors of Victims of Armenian Holocaust”, Insurance Journal, Jan. 28; AP/CBS News, Jan. 29; CNN, Feb. 17)(via Law.com)