Libby Adler

Document Type



This article discusses the 2003 decision of the United States Supreme Court American Insurance Association v. Garamendi in which five members of the Court, led by Justice Souter, found that California's Holocaust Victim Insurance Relief Act of 1999 (HVIRA) "interferes with the National Government's conduct of foreign relations" and is therefore preempted. The article explains HVIRA and situates it in the larger context of contemporary efforts at restitution for wrongs associated with the Holocaust. It argues that the Court purported to find a conflict between federal and state law, but that the federal "law" with which state law "conflicted" was no law at all, but rather a federal preference for diplomacy to redress European corporate misdeeds rather than tougher remedial avenues that could wind up in a judicial forum. Justice Souter and the majority, the article argues, claim to have engaged in a chaste assessment of whether two laws conflict, but a close reading reveals the Court's own policy preference for diplomacy and a distinct unease with California's creation of favorable legal conditions for Holocaust victims and their heirs.

Date of Authorship for this Version



Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945), American Insurance Association, War reparations, Garamendi, California's Holocaust Victim Insurance Relief Act of 1999, HVIRA, restitution, Supreme Court cases, diplomacy, international relations, International Law, Law

Original Citation

Originally published in the German Law Journal, Vol. 4, No. 11, pp. 1193-1205, 2003.