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More 9th Circuit Decisions

Discussion in 'Issues Around the World' started by ethics, Jan 23, 2003.

  1. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has ruled unconstitutional a <a href="http://ssl.csg.org/dockets/22cycle/2002A/2002Abills/1722a06ca.html">1999 California law</a> giving World War II victims of forced labor the right to sue for compensation in a state court.

    The court's 3-0 decision held that the law had, get this, an improper impact on U.S. foreign relations:

    California lacks the power to create a right of action for war-related claims against our former enemies and those [corporations] who operated in their territories.

    The federal court's decision comes just a week after a California appeals court upheld the state law. University of Southern California constitutional law professor Erwin Chemerinsky said that, at least for right now, the federal decision 'makes the state court decision practically irrelevant' and that the U.S. Supreme Court may have to resolve the dispute.

    The state statute in question gave California courts the power to hear slave labor cases from World War II and allowed such claims, including those of victims' heirs, to be filed until December 31, 2010.

    The federal and state courts disagreed on two fundamental issues.

    The federal court found that 'the California legislature chose to create a specific cause of action for persons subjected to slave labor by the Nazis and their allies and sympathizers,' thus creating an entirely new cause of action for the plaintiffs. But the state appeals court viewed the law as being simply a procedural statute giving plaintiffs more time to file: 'Establishing a statute of limitations is a state perogative.'

    The 9th Circuit also said that the California statute improperly impinges on the federal government's exclusive province over foreign affairs, whereas the state court said that it had no more than an 'incidental or indirect effect' on the federal government's relations with foreign countries because the statute 'applies retroactively, not prospectively, to claims against private companies.'

    The federal court's ruling affects hundreds of cases that have been filed against German and Japanese corporations by elderly Jews, American prisoners of war, and Korean and Chinese civilians. Lawyers for the companies are expected to appeal the state court's decision to the California Supreme Court, while those representing the victims of slave labor said they will ask for a review of the federal ruling by a larger panel of 9th Circuit judges.

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