Born in 1956, Judge Suzanne Bruguera is the daughter of Armenian and Russian parents who met in Iran and immigrated to the United States as permanent residents when she was 8.
Growing up in Los Angeles, she attended USC and Loyola Law School, where she met her husband of 40 years, Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Paul Bruguera.
Bruguera graduated from Loyola in 1981 and began her legal career as an associate at Voorhees, Knable and Voorhees. She later joined the Los Angeles County District Attorneys’ Office where she became a member of a sexual assault prosecution unit.
She then joined the California Department of Justice as a Deputy Attorney General in the Business and Tax Section where her clients included the Department of Real Estate, the Department of Insurance, the Board of Equalization and Franchise Tax Board.
Having gained experience as a civil practitioner as well as criminal prosecution and with the encouragement of Justice Armand Arabian, Bruguera applied to become a judge. In June of 1989, Governor George Deukmejian appointed her to the Los Angeles Municipal Court. While serving on the Superior Court, she was assigned to an Independent Calendar Unlimited Jurisdiction court at the Central District Stanley Mosk Courthouse handling civil matters including Employment, Real Property, Personal Injury, Insurance, Elder Abuse, Entertainment and Business Disputes.
After serving 27 years handling civil matters on the bench, she continued her passion for her work as a judge by joining ADR Services as a neutral. She has been a neutral for the last 6 years and has successfully served as a mediator, arbitrator, and referee.
Judge Bruguera and Commissioner Paul Bruguera have two adult children, Jennifer, and Sam. She is fortunate to still have her 97-year-old father Emil Gazani, who appreciates the opportunities the United States has given his family.
Judge Michelle Williams Court
Michelle Williams Court is the Supervising Judge of the Civil Division of Los Angeles Superior Court. She has presided over general jurisdiction civil cases since 2015 and also served in the Family Law Division.
Judge Court serves on the California Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions, is an elected member of the American Law Institute and a participant in its Members Consultative Groups for Restatement of the Law, Constitutional Torts; Principles for a Data Economy; and Restatement of the Law, Children and the Law. She is a Life Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and a Founding Member of the Association of African American California Judicial Officers.
Judge Court is Chair of the Court’s Technology Committee and has served on many other court committees including as Chair of the Bench – Bar Committee and as a member of the Civil and Small Claims Committee, the Crossover subcommittee of the Operational Planning Committee, the governing committee of the Judicial Education Committee, and the Civil subcommittee of the Judicial Education Committee.
Judge Court is also a member of the Judicial Council Civil and Small Claims Advisory
Committee, served as a member of the Judicial Council Language Access Implementation Plan Taskforce, and also served as a member of the Commission on the Future of California’s Court System. Judge Court is a New Judge Orientation Instructor for the Center for Judicial Education and Research and an Instructor for its ethics curriculum. In addition, Judge Court teaches the Personal Injury Update seminar for the Rutter Group. While in private practice, Judge Court specialized in civil rights and public interest litigation. Judge Court is a graduate of Pomona College and Loyola Law School.
Judge Ricardo Ocampo
Judge Ricardo Ocampo is the Supervising Judge of the Criminal Division of the Los Angeles Superior Court. From 2016 to 2021, he served as the Supervising Judge of the South Central District of the Los Angeles Superior Court. Prior to his appointment to the bench in 2008, Judge Ocampo served for 13 years as a deputy district attorney at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. As a deputy district attorney, Judge Ocampo spent his career prosecuting violent felonies in the Major Crimes Division, Hardcore Gang Division, and Sex Crimes Division. In 2017, he was named Judge of the Year by the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section. In 2018, the Association of Deputy District Attorneys recognized Judge Ocampo as Judge of the Year. Judge Ocampo received his J.D. from Southwestern Law School and his B.A. from San Francisco State University. He is fluent in Tagalog and Spanish.
Judge Nikki Mehrpoo-Jacobson
Judge Nikki Mehrpoo-Jacobson was appointed as a Workers’ Compensation Administrative Law Judge in September of 2020 and is assigned to the Van Nuys Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board District Office.
Prior to becoming a judge, she was an attorney and advocate focused on social justice issues related to all aspects of immigration and workers’ compensation law. She is the first and only dual-certified legal specialist in Workers’ Compensation and Immigration Law by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization.
She began her legal career in 1997, after earning her law degree from Pepperdine University School of Law and her admission to The State Bar of California that same year. Judge Jacobson graduated Cum Laude from California State University, Northridge, California in 1994 with a B.S. in Political Science.
Judge Jacobson is also a Professor of Law at West Los Angeles College. She is an in-demand nationally and internationally recognized distinguished expert, speaker and analyst on all topics related to immigration and workers’ compensation law. She has shared her valuable insight and expertise as an international legal analyst for French television – France 5, Iranian Radio KIRN 670 AM, Japanese Weekly Magazine – Toyo Keizai Magazine, in Denmark on Ekstra Bladet, as well as Business Insurance and WCAuthority.com analyzing high-profile immigration and workers’ compensation cases, court decisions and legal issues.
She has served as an editor and contributing author of several legal publications for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, including Navigating the Fundamentals of Immigration Law (2016–17 Ed.) and Immigration Practice Toolbox, Third and Fourth Editions. Judge Jacobson is a past President of the Iranian American Lawyers Association, former Commissioner of the California State Bar Workers’ Compensation Law Advisory Commission, and former member of the Board of Directors for the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association (CAAA).
Above all, she is a proud wife to Shepard and a devoted mother to Gabriella and Warren Jacobson.
Hon. Robert G. Rassp
Judge Robert G. Rassp practiced workers’ compensation and social security disability law from 1981, until his appointment to the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB), on April 16, 2018. On December 16, 2019, he was appointed as the Presiding Judge at the WCAB Los Angeles District Office where he supervises 18 judges and 60 staff. He is a certified specialist in workers’ compensation law by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization since 1994.
Judge Rassp is the author of “Lawyer’s Guide to the AMA Guides and California Workers’ Compensation” with the 18 th edition in press. He is the Editor-In-Chief of the Rassp &
Herlick 22-chapter treatise, both published by LexisNexis. Since 2017, Judge Rassp is an
adjunct professor of law at Pepperdine Caruso School of Law. He is Chairman of the Board of Directors of Friends Research Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. (www.friendsresearch.org).
Judge Rassp enjoys teaching Workers’ Compensation law to the workers’ compensation
community and spends his spare time playing rock and roll in his two bands, “CC&R” and “Retro.”
Hon. Sharon Velzy
Judge Sharon Velzy is the Presiding Worker’s Compensation Judge for the State of California in Van Nuys. She served as a Workers’ Compensation Judge for 10 years before becoming the Presiding Judge. Judge Velzy attended college in San Diego where she graduated Summa Cum Laude. She began her legal career as a criminal defense attorney and worked on The Innocence Project before becoming an attorney
for the State of California handling workers’ compensation cases. During her career, Judge Velzy has been a guest lecturer and has organized numerous statewide education programs. She is currently serving as an officer on the Executive Committee of the Workers’ Compensation Section of the California Lawyers Association and is the Chair of the Education Committee. She is a member of the Conference of California Workers’ Compensation Judges where she previously served on the board as Treasurer. Judge Velzy is a past recipient of The State Bar of California Wiley M.
Manual Award honoring her pro bono work.
In her spare time, she enjoys being at the beach with her daughters and volunteering
with a local wildlife animal rescue.
Judge David Gelfound is the Supervising Judge of the North Valley District of the Los Angeles Superior Court. In May of 2007, he was appointed to the Los Angeles Superior Court. His misdemeanor assignments included those at the Metropolitan Courthouse, Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center, and the Van Nuys Courthouse. In January of 2011, Judge Gelfound transferred to the San Fernando Court where he handled a felony trial calendar.
In December of 2018, Judge Gelfound was selected to be the Supervising Judge of the North Valley District and remains in that position today. The North Valley District includes the San Fernando, Chatsworth, and Santa Clarita Courthouses. Judge Gelfound supervises 27 judicial officers who handle criminal, civil, family law, and traffic matters. A native of the San Fernando Valley, a highlight of Judge Gelfound’s career was being honored by the San Fernando Valley Bar Association as “Judge of the Year” in 2019.
Native of San Fernando Valley, Judge Gelfound attended Taft High School where he participated in moot court competition at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse. He worked his way through college and law school as a kitchen and storeroom worker at Kaiser Hospital. He graduated from UCLA in 1986 and Pepperdine Law School in 1989. Upon admission to the bar, he worked in the area of civil law, working for both plaintiff and defense firms. In 1994, he was hired as a Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney when he remained for the next 12 years. During his career as a Deputy District Attorney, he spent approximately 8 years in the Hardcore Gang Unit, handling primarily murder cases and other violent felonies. At the time of his appointment, he was part of the District Attorney’s Organized Crime Unit.
Judge Gelfound has benefited from a number of mentors throughout his legal career and has provided mentorship opportunities to others. He helped establish the Teen Court program at the Northridge Academy High School. The teen court program provides high school students the opportunity to interact with judges and lawyers and allows the students to decide cases involving other high school students. Judge Gelfound also participates in a mentorship program through the Pepperdine Law School in which he advises 1st year law students and also a judicial mentorship program through the Los Angeles Superior Court.
Amy M. Pellman is the Supervising Judge for the family law division of the Los Angeles Superior Court. She was elected Commissioner in 2005 and appointed Judge in 2008. In addition to her responsibilities as Supervisor, she is the Co-Chair of the FAM/JUV Advisory Committee for the Judicial Council as well as the Co-Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee for the Los Angeles Superior Court.
Judge Pellman has spent most of her time on the bench in family law assignments with a five-year hiatus at the Edelman’s Children’s Court. At Children’s Court, she handled a specialized calendar that included dependency, ICWA, adoption and contested terminations for private adoption cases, surrogacy, and emancipation. She continues to serve as the only Los Angeles Superior Judge for surrogacy cases.
In 2019, Judge Pellman received a number of awards for her work on behalf of children and families including Judge of the Year from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Judge of the Year from Southwestern Law school, and the Outstanding Community Service Award from Levitt and Quinn Family Law Center. More recently in 2020, Judge Pellman received the, ‘Family Law Judge of the year” by the American Inns of Court, Southern California chapter.
Judge Pellman is a nationally recognized advocate for children’s rights and received the highly coveted Child Advocacy Law Award in 2003 from the American Bar Association, a national award that recognizes outstanding work and achievement on behalf of children.
Judge Pellman has numerous publications on issues related to children ranging from a training manual for new judges and lawyers to law review articles. Judge Pellman is also a featured speaker at numerous conferences and law schools and is currently teaching classes at University of Southern California Gould School of Law and Southwestern Law School. In 2005, Judge Pellman was awarded the Southwestern Law School, “Adjunct Excellence in Teaching Award”.
Prior to joining the bench, Judge Pellman served as the Legal Director for The Alliance for Children’s Rights, a non-profit legal organization devoted to providing free legal services to children living in poverty. While at The Alliance, Judge Pellman oversaw the legal services for The Alliance, directing litigation and individual legal services for children in foster care, children requiring medical assistance, and children with physical, mental and educational disabilities. Before joining The Alliance, Judge Pellman spent seven years at Dependency Court Legal Services serving as senior trial attorney and appellate counsel representing children in foster care.
Judge Pellman also practiced civil litigation for three years and served as a federal clerk for the Second Circuit of New York. Judge Pellman holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Mount Holyoke College and a Juris Doctorate from City University of New York Law School. She was admitted to both the California and New York Bars and has served on numerous state and local judicial committees.
Judge Richard S. Kemalyan presides over felony trials in the Superior Court of Los Angeles since 2012. In 2006, Judge Kemalyan was appointed to the bench by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and sworn in by Justice Paul Turner, a family friend. He has served on various Court committees including the Trial Jurors Committee, the Criminal Psychologist / Psychiatrist Committee, the Criminal Experts Committee, and the Court Security Committee for the Los Angeles Superior Court.
Prior to being appointed, Judge Kemalyan worked at Chase Rotchford as a law clerk, associate, limited partner, and general partner for 20 years. He worked in the infancy of asbestos litigation in Los Angeles, as well as the Las Vegas MGM and Hilton Hotel fire litigation. While managing 3000-5000 asbestos related cases with another partner, he took to trial one of the first ten asbestos cases tried in Los Angeles County. As those cases wound to a conclusion in the office, Judge Kemalyan began a 20-25 year journey representing municipalities and police departments for civil rights violations filed in the state and federal courts. His work was principally in defending the County of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in civil cases alleging civil rights violations. The cases ranged from false arrests, excessive force, wrongful death shootings, deaths in custody, unlawful and out of policy vehicular pursuits and a host of other related matters.
Judge Kemalyan left Chase Rotchford in 1996 and formed his own firm, Kemalyan & Richland, but continued to have a contract with the County and principally handled Sheriff’s Department cases as well as some work for the District Attorney’s Office and Public Defender’s Office. In 2000, he rejoined some of his former partners at Dwyer, Daly Brotzen & Bruno and continued to work for municipalities and police officers in defending civil rights cases, as well as some employment law.
Judge Kemalyan tried a myriad of civil rights cases in federal and state courts. In 20-25 years, he lost one jury trial for the Sheriff’s Department when a jury verdict was under the demand but closer to the settlement offer. He was honored as the Sheriff’s Department Trial Attorney of the Year on two separate occasions. He was also a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), and various other bar associations.
Judge Kemalyan attended Loyola University School of Law. He took a practical approach to law school, in his first year, he accepted employment at Harris & Aranda, a small firm near LAX. Prior to attending law school, he graduated from UCLA in 1968, Phi Beta Kappa.
Judge Kemalyan was born and raised in Los Angeles, and grew up in North Hollywood and graduated from North Hollywood High School. In his youth, he was involved in YMCA weekend sports leagues, Little League, and Babe Ruth League. Saturdays were game days. Sunday was church and family time in the park with relatives. There was food, backgammon boards and laughter.
Judge Kemalyan remains a member of ABOTA and the national and local chapters of Phi Beta Kappa.
Honorable Helen I. Bendix was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to the California Court of Appeal, on April 17, 2018 after having served on the trial court for almost 21 years. Her judicial career began when Governor Pete Wilson appointed her to the Municipal Court in 1997. She was elevated to the Superior Court in 2000. She has also served as the Supervising Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court settlement courts, settling over 1000 cases during her tenure.
Her father died when she and her twin sister were babies, and her mother and grandmother supported them from the wages her grandmother earned working as a department store clerk. She attended Cornell University as a scholarship student, attaining high academic honors and membership in Phi Beta Kappa. She earned her law degree from Yale Law School. After law school, Justice Bendix clerked for the Honorable Shirley Mount Hufstedler on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. She then moved with her husband to Washington, D.C. There, she lead an administrative appeal before the United States Supreme Court. She returned to Los Angeles in 1985, and joined Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, and later as a partner in Heller, Ehrman, White, and McAuliffe.
Justice Bendix has taught in American University’s law school in Washington, D.C., UCLA, and the Straus Institute at Pepperdine University. She is the author of several articles on civil procedure, alternative dispute resolution, and international law.
Justice Bendix was Chair of the California State Bar’s International Law Section in 1990-1991. She has served as a member of the Los Angeles Bar Association’s Board of Trustees and the American Law Institute. Justice Bendix is the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Southern California Mediation Association Peacemaker of the Year Award in 2002 and was recognized by the Los Angeles Business Journal as “The 50 Most Powerful Women in Los Angeles Law.”
Justice Bendix is married to federal District Court Judge John A. Kronstadt. They have three children and two grandchildren. She is an avid musician, playing in the Palisades Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic Orchestra, and chamber music ensembles.
Honorable Ruth Ann Kwan is a first generation Chinese American. Her family fled Communist China in the 1940s to Hong Kong, where she was born. As the 19th of 22 children, she lived in Hong Kong and later immigrated to the United States in at age 14. She worked and supported herself through college, graduating from the University of Southern California in 1978 and later received her Juris Doctor degree from the University of California Hastings College of the Law in 1981.
Upon graduation, Judge Kwan began her legal career in 1981 as a prosecutor with the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office. Prior to her appointment to the bench, she supervised the Consumer Protection Section and Dispute Resolution Program, and was responsible for the development, enforcement and prosecution of consumer protection laws. She handled many high profile consumer fraud cases. She also authored a price gouging statue for the City of Los Angeles after the Northridge Earthquake, the first of its kind in California. This landed her an appearance on Good Morning America.
In 1995, Judge Kwan was appointed to the East Los Angeles Municipal Court and later elevated to the Los Angeles Superior Court in 1998. At the time of her elevation, she was the Assistant Presiding Judge of the East Los Angeles Municipal Court.
During her 24 year judicial career, Judge Kwan had various assignments and responsibilities. She served as Supervising Judge of the Eastlake Juvenile Delinquency Court, and presided over hundreds of felony jury trials in downtown Los Angeles. Currently she sits in a civil assignment in the Stanley Mosk Courthouse. In addition to her Independent Calendar Assignment, Judge Kwan serves as an Assistant Supervising Judge of the Civil Division, Co-Chair of the Law Clerk Committee and the Chair of the Court Commissioner Selection Committee.
Honorable Daniel Buckley serves as the Presiding Judge of the Los Angeles County Superior Court. He previously served as the Assistant Presiding Judge in 2015 and 2016; as Supervising Judge of the Civi Departments; and as the Supervising Judge of the East District. Judge Buckley has handled a wide range of case types, including misdemeanor, general civil, felony trial, felony master calendar and probate. He has been a member of a number of state-wide and LASC committees and is active in judicial education. Before taking the bench in 2002, Judge Buckley was a shareholder at the Los Angeles firm of Breidenbach, Buckley, Huchting, Halm & Hamblet. He had a general civil defense practice with a concentration of trials in the areas of toxic torts, professional negligence, personal injury and insurance coverage. He also served as managing partner for a number of years. Judge Buckley attended the University of Notre Dame for his undergraduate and law degrees.
Hon. Andre Manssourian is a Supervising Judge of the Superior Court of Orange County. He graduated from Santa Clara University School of Law with Juris Doctor degree in 1997 and served as a Volunteer Attorney with Orange County District Attorney Orange from November 1997 to June 1998. He has been a private attorney handling criminal cases from June 1998 to March 2000 after which he began working as a Prosecutor at the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. Between 2000-2006, Judge Manssourian prosecuted criminal misdemeanors and felonies from arraignment through jury trial and sentencing and from 2006 to 2010 he was assigned to the Special Prosecutions Unit of the Orange County DA’s office handling high profile media cases involving murder, human trafficking, robbery, extortion, sexual assault, gang crimes, crimes involving dignitaries or celebrities as defendants or victims, and political corruption and bribery. In June 2010, he was elected Superior Court Judge in the California Primary Election and currently serves as Supervising Judge of the North Justice Center and handling criminal master calendar. Judge Manssourian lives in Orange County with his wife Lisa and their two daughters, Ava (13) and Ani (11) who both attend Ari Guiragos Minassian Armenian School.
Hon. Christina A. Snyder was appointed to the United States District Court for the Central District of California in November 1997, and became senior in November 2016 after nineteen years of active service. Judge Snyder received her B.A. degree, with a major in history, from Pomona College in 1969, where she was a Pomona Scholar, and received her J.D. degree from Stanford Law School in 1972. Judge Snyder was elected to the membership of the American Law Institute in 1994.
Prior to becoming a United States District Judge, Judge Snyder was a lawyer in private practice in Los Angeles and was a partner in the Wyman Bautzer Kuchel & Silbert, Katten Muchin & Zavis and Corinblit & Seltzer law firms. Judge Snyder specialized in commercial litigation with an emphasis in antitrust, securities, financial institutions, entertainment and intellectual property law cases.
Judge Snyder in 1977 and 1978 served as a Beverly Hills Bar Association Board Member of Public Counsel, then the public interest law firm of the Beverly Hills Bar Association, and was charged with other board members with founding a Public Counsel sponsored by both the Los Angeles County and Beverly Hills Bar Associations. Thereafter, Judge Snyder served as a member of the Board of Directors, and became the first woman to serve as President of Public Counsel. She also served as a California State Bar designee to the Board of Directors of the Western Center on Law and Poverty. She has served as a member of the Board of Visitors of the Stanford Law School, and serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Historical Society. She is the recipient of the President’s Award from the Century City Bar Association and Ronald M. George Award for Judicial Excellence given by the Beverly Hills Bar Association.
2018 Workers’ Compensation Honor Awards Dinner
SPECIAL GUESTS OF HONOR
Honorable Lynn A. Devine, Workers’ Compensation Judge, Van Nuys District
Honorable Clint Feddersen, Workers’ Compensation Judge, Van Nuys District
Honorable Roger A. Tolman, Workers’ Compensation Judge, Los Angeles District
Honorable Huey P. Cotton, Jr. is a judge for the Superior Court of Los Angeles County in California. He was appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in January 2009 to succeed David Horwitz.
Honorable Holly J. Fujie was appointed to the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles by Governor Jerry Brown in 2011. Prior to her appointment, Judge Fujie was a shareholder in the Los Angeles-based law firm of Buchalter Nemer. She earned her AB degree at the University of California, Berkeley and her JD from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, where she was an editor of the California Law Revie. In 2008–2009 she was the third woman and the first Asian American to serve as president of the State Bar of California.
Honorable Victor Chavez was appointed to the bench in 1990, Chavez has the distinction of being the county’s only judge to have been sworn into office by his daughter. Prior to his appointment, he was a partner at Pomerantz & Chavez, where he represented plaintiffs in personal injury and medical malpractice claims.
PAST YEARS’ HONOREES & JUDGES NIGHTS
Judges Zaven Sinanian and Greg Keosian to Receive Top Honors at Armenian Bar’s Judges’ Night
The centennial year of the Armenian Genocide has seen the Armenian Bar Association reinvigorate its membership and the broader community with movements and marches towards justice and solidarity. One of the most dazzling features on the Armenian Bar’s annual calendars of commitment and action has been its recurring Judges’ Night gatherings where the organization invites legal professionals, law students, and the interested public to honor two or three judges who are especially deserving of distinction.
In the past, the jurists who have received the Association’s prestigious acclaim have come from the leadership ranks of the federal and state court systems. This year, the Armenian Bar Association does not look beyond its own fold for two peerless honorees who are worthy of the professional and Armenian communities’ cheers and commendations.
This year’s honorees are Judge Zaven Sinanian and Judge Gregory Keosian, whose positive similarities are striking: friends for years before becoming lawyers, charter members and leaders of the Armenian Bar Association, involved in the strengthening of the Diaspora and the Homeland, appointed to the California Superior Court within weeks of each other in 2002, and mentors to a new generation of young lawyers and law students.
In recognition of the magnitude of this signature event, the Armenian Bar’s most-recent past chairmen– Armen K. Hovannisian, Garo B. Ghazarian and Edvin Minassian–are heading the organizational initiatives for what is expected to be a watershed moment in the Armenian community’s development and prominence.
Hovannisian explained: “Presiding in their separate courtrooms for more than a dozen years, Zaven Sinanian and Greg Keosian have burnished their family names and professional reputations and, together, represent the most positive values that Armenians throughout the world have been known for. Smart and savvy, straightforward and sophisticated, hard-working and efficient, qualities that have made them the finest among Armenians and the best among Americans.”
Ghazarian pointed to the historic nature of this year’s Armenian Bar Judges’ Night, “The similarities of Judges Sinanian and Keosian extend far beyond their judicial sleeves and their gavels. They follow in the hallowed footsteps and high examples of a generation who sacrificed everything so that we may live and prosper.” And Minassian summed up the Armenian Bar’s position, “Teeming with joy and flush with pride, we will gather in spectacular fashion to honor two incredible men who are cut from the same cloth, wear matching black robes, and share an exalted record of service to the United States and to their Armenian heritage.”
2014- Wesley Hailed at Armenian Bar Association Dinner for Humility; Brazile, Tabaddor Also Feted
Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge David Wesley has been described at a dinner meeting of the Armenian Bar Association as a man possessed of “dominating humility.”
Wesley was honored by the association on Wednesday, along with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kevin C. Brazile and Immigration Judge Ashley Tabaddor, with the U.S. Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review. The occasion was the group’s third annual “Judge’s Night.”
More than 200 persons were seated at tables in the banquet room of a mid-eastern restaurant in Glendale, with the capacity of 180. They heard the association’s immediate past chair, Encino criminal defense attorney Garo B. Ghazarian, say of Wesley:
“What is decisive and impressive about his functioning on the court is his general attitude toward law, the habits of mind he has formed, the capacity for detachment, and his temperament, and training for putting his passion behind his judgment instead of in front of it.
“The attitudes and qualities which I am groping to characterize here, and describe Judge Wesley with, are ingredients in what compendiously might be called dominating humility.
“That’s right. Dominating humility.”
Wesley Expresses Optimism
Wesley decried the deep budget cuts the court has incurred over the past five years, yet expressed “great optimism” for the court’s immediate future. He told the audience, which included about 50 judges:
“We know that access to justice is a fundamental expectation of all Californians—people just take it for granted and expect that judges, following the law, will punish the wrongdoers, resolve family disputes in a fair and just manner, enforce contracts, protect children and others who cannot protect themselves, and ensure people’s rights as they do so.
“I knew when I ran for assistant presiding judge four years ago that in the years ahead, these fundamental expectations of all the citizens of Los Angeles would be a great challenge.
“The court’s budget is already being cut, and more cuts seem likely.
“But it’s a challenge that I embraced—that I embraced because I had faith in the judges and staff of your Superior Court to weather any storm and overcome any crisis.”
Wesley said that the Los Angeles Superior Court has had to “find a way to operate with $187 million less in our budget” than five years ago. While court revenues have dwindled, he pointed out, caseloads have burgeoned. In 2008, he noted, the court handled about 2.5 million cases, in 58 courthouses, with 6,000 employees; by the end of this year, it will have handled about 3 million cases, in 38 courthouses, staffed by 4,250 employees.
“But in spite of the growing caseloads and the lack of funds,” the presiding judge said, “one thing remains clear: “The courts of Los Angeles will not and cannot ration justice by restricting rights of our citizens. We are committed to preserving the rule of law in all areas of litigation.” The court is, he advised, “restructuring,” expanding online services and otherwise utilizing technology to cut costs. This includes, he mentioned, replacing all 6,000 phones, most of which are from the 1970s, at a savings of $2.5 million a year.
“I am sure that we will emerge from the trauma of the last five years a more vibrant and energized court, with far better and more efficient environment in which lawyers can use their skills,” Wesley declared. He said that he ends his term as presiding judge “a little tired, but filled with great optimism for the future of our court,” adding: “I have great confidence in the extraordinary intellect and exceptional leadership of my fantastic partner, Presiding Judge-Elect Carolyn Kuhl.” Wesley received a framed commendation from the group which terms him “a pillar of California’s judicial system,” and lauds “his superlative standard of integrity” and “warmth, compassion, and sincerity.”
Earlier in the program, the Armenian Bar Association’s president, Armen K. Hovannisian, a Sherman Oaks attorney who had previously served as the group’s chief, remarked:
“We take our work very seriously at the Armenian American Bar Association because we are among the very few who are given the gift of life when so many members of our families were given the curse of death during the Armenian genocide.” (Mass slayings of Armenians occurred in the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire, beginning in 1915. Between 1 to 1.5 million Armenians were put to death.) Notwithstanding a background of terror, Hovannisian said, “We are a happy people,” adding: “We are an optimistic people. And… some of you who have known us for more than a few days know that we can be a rambunctious lot.
“I have to say that when we Armenians get together, we seem to be animated, and proud, and opinionated—but as soon as we get into the larger, non-Armenian community…we take on your grandmothers’ quiet humility, their hushed expressions…. “But exercising a chairman’s prerogative today, I will tell you that at least for tonight, mixed company or not…we’ll be proud, we’ll be opinionated, we’ll be animated, and we’ll be happy.”
Words From McDonnell
Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell, a candidate in tomorrow’s election for sheriff, also addressed the association and alluded to the Armenian genocide. He made note that next April 24 will mark the centennial of the onset of the program to eradicate the Armenian populace, and said he will “work with all of you” in connection with observances of that occasion. Tabaddor, who was born in Iran and is involved in Iranian American community activities, in August brought suit against the Department of Justice and others contesting her banishment from any case involving an Iranian national. She alleges in her complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, that the action “is facially discriminatory and sets Judge Tabaddor apart for adverse and unequal treatment, simply because of her race, national origin and/or religion.” (It lists her race as “Near East Asian, Middle Eastern and Persian” and declares she is “culturally Muslim.”)
Tabaddor also avers that it impinges on her “First Amendment rights, in that it impermissibly chills her rights of free expression and association with Iranian-American groups, apart from her employment by the Federal Government.”
2013- Armenian Bar Association Hosts Successful Judges’ Night
GLENDALE—Several hundred dignitaries, public officials, and guests joined the Armenian Bar Association on October 10, 2013, to celebrate, honor and recognize the career and service of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza. His first column of respect was comprised of nearly 40 judicial officers from the federal and state courts who had come to pay homage and respect to one of their own. This truly special event played out in full regalia during the Armenian Bar Association’s Annual Judges’ Night Dinner at the Phoenicia Restaurant.
The Master of Ceremonies for the evening was Armenian Bar Association Chairman Garo B. Ghazarian. After welcoming remarks by ArmenBar Board member Gerard Kassabian, Ghazarian was introduced by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge and former Armenian Bar Chairman, the Honorable Zaven Sinanian. Judge Sinanian recognized Ghazarian by stating that “Garo’s whole concept in life is to serve the community, never giving up, and relentlessly fighting for what is right in life.” He also applauded him for leading the organization toward unprecedented heights of public service and achievement, while simultaneously serving on multiple fronts. Sinanian also took a few moments to express his heartfelt thanks to the evening’s guest of honor, Peter Espinoza, who was a mentor to Judge Sinanian when he first took the bench more than 10 years ago.
In his opening remarks, Ghazarian stated, “Tonight, we thank Judge Espinoza and his colleagues on the bench for their public service, for their activism, for their commitment to the ideal that in order for our civil society to progress, we must have a strong and independent judiciary.”
In an unprecedented show of Armenian community unity and cohesion, usually reserved for April 24th commemorations, Chairman Ghazarian thanked and acknowledged the presence of Armenian Revolutionary Federation Central Committee Chairman, Dr. Viken Hovsepian, Armenian Democratic League Central Committee Board member, Dr. Raffi Balian, Armenian General Benevolent Union Vice-President, World-Wide Board of Governors, Mr. Sinan Sinanian, and Armenian National Committee Western United States Chairwoman, Nora Hovsepian.
Ghazarian then called upon Presiding Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court, David Wesley, to address the rapt audience. Wesley described the enormous challenges that face the California judiciary today, noting the massive budget cuts that have been imposed upon the court system. But, despite those setbacks in funding, he explained that the California courts are still seen as a model for judicial excellence across the country. He thanked the judges in attendance for maintaining the highest levels of judicial performance in these difficult times.
In 2012, the Armenian Bar Association recognized the Honorable Lee S. Edmon. Honorable Edmon is the presiding justice of the Second District, Division Three of the California Courts of Appeal. She was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown on June 28, 2014, to replace Joan Klein. She was confirmed by the California Commission on Judicial Appointments on August 28. She was retained on November 4, 2014, to a term that expires on January 3, 2027.
Edmon served as a judge of the Los Angeles County Superior Court from 2000 to 2015, and she was that court’s first female presiding judge from 2011 to 2012.