14 Jul 2017

THE SAGA OF AN AMERICAN CITIZEN ABROAD: ABANDONED BY JUSTICE IN ARMENIA?

The United States Constitution guarantees to American citizens certain inalienable rights. Foremost among these is the right of Americans to be “free and safe.”

These rights, the very bedrock of American ideals, do not end the moment an American citizen crosses the United States border to enter another land. In fact, the United States Department of State stipulates that it is charged with the responsibility of protecting and assisting United States citizens living or traveling abroad.

Garo Yegnukian is a United States citizen who for the past year has been held in an Armenian prison.

The Armenian Rights Watch Committee of the Armenian Bar Association (ARWC) is concerned at the reported lack of adequate measures being taken by the United States to protect and assist one of its own citizens — Mr. Yegnukian.

In 2009, driven by a passion to help the fledgling homeland of his Armenian heritage, Yegnukian and his family took up residence in Armenia. This move was both a dream and an aspiration to put his vast experience to use in Armenia and to use his entrepreneurial skills to create business opportunities.

In July 2016, when widespread protests were taking place in Armenia, Mr. Yegnukian, among others, was arrested in the aftermath of the peaceful demonstrations. Mr. Yegnukian was accused of what the Armenian government alleged was aiding and abetting militants who had taken over a Yerevan police compound.

The charges against Mr. Yegnukian stem from alleged telephone conversations he had with the Sasna Dzrer (Daredevils of Sassoon) attempting, according to him and his counsel, to de-escalate the crisis in a responsible manner, to prevent further police brutality and to protect lives. These endeavors, the political activism and his support of the protest movement are, it appears, what led him to prison.

The prosecution and court have joined Yegnukian’s case with 13 other defendants and the court has thus far denied 3 different motions to separate his case. With this bundled prosecution, Mr. Yegnukian’s trial will now be tied up for over many years. A request for bail, even for an unprecedented amount, was also denied without articulated reasons for his detention, pending a lengthy multi-defendant trial.

The ARWC hereby calls upon the US State Department and the US Embassy to fulfill their obligations and intervene more directly, proactively and more intently on behalf of its citizen, whose rights have been imperiled if not compromised, as it has done in other similar past cases*.

We call upon Armenia to respect rights protected by constitutional guarantees, freedom of assembly, peaceful protest and free expression. The right to a speedy trial and the dismissal of illegally-gathered evidence or politically-motivated charges are the hallmarks of a true democracy.

Local and foreign observers should attend and report on all pre-trial proceedings and the trial, and by their presence and subsequent reporting, encourage Armenia and the Armenian judiciary to treat fairly and justly US citizens and indeed all people, according to precepts of national and international law.

The ARWC continues to monitor this case and urges its membership and all freedom-loving and rights-respecting people to remain vigilant, to be engaged and rise in support of the human and civil rights of Garo Yegnukian, Esq.

Armenian Rights Watch Committee—ARWC
ARMENIAN BAR ASSOCIATION

*
a) Afgan Mukhtarli https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2017/06/271551.htm
b) Aya Hijazi https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/21/us/politics/american-aid-worker-released-egypt-trump.html

06 Jul 2017

MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIRMAN

For nearly three decades now, the Armenian Bar Association has strived to fulfill the mission that was set for this organization by its founder, Raffi Hovannisian.

Our committees, through the outstanding leadership of their chairpersons, have worked tirelessly, united in our common cause to defend the rights of the Armenian people, help develop a rule of law society for Armenia, assist the Republic of Artsakh to achieve statehood, foster professional development of our members and guide our students to attain their goal of entering the ranks of the legal profession.

All of these objectives seamlessly came together during the weekend of June 9-10, 2017, when our Association met for its 28th Annual Meeting in the beauty that is the city of Huntington Beach, California.  (Click here to see a summary record of all the good things that happened that weekend.)

Following on the heels of our successful Annual Meeting, I look forward with great anticipation to the coming year for our organization.   I welcome and invite you to participate as the Armenian Bar Association sets new milestones in the 2017-2018 year.  Our year is starting off with a roaring start when, on July 19, we will be simultaneously hosting events on both coasts:  the Inaugural Launch of our NY/NJ/CT chapter committee with its first ever event in New Jersey at the Pilsener Haus and Biergarten located in Hoboken, and on the west coast our first ever joint event with the Italian American Lawyers Association, the Glendale, Pasadena and San Fernando Bar Associations at the always-fun and iconic Casa Italiana in Los Angeles.

Last year, our Mentorship Program, led by the tremendous will and work of Lucy Varpetian, Armen Hovannisian, and Aleksan Giragosian, without question was the greatest source of new members and served as an important bridge between our organization and students and new lawyers.  This year, Aleksan has taken over the helm of the Mentorship Program and this one of our organization’s rising stars is already hard at work matching our students with their volunteer mentors.

Our Armenian Rights Watch Committee, through the leadership of our dynamic duo of Garo Ghazarian and Karnig Kerkonian, have enabled us to rocket to international prominence as one of the leading – and sometimes only – voice on matters concerning the defense of Armenian rights.  They are battle-tested warriors of the Armenian Cause and they are being recognized as such globally for their work on issues of the rights of the disabled, the rights of women, political prisoners, and so much more.

Three years ago, we established the Armenian Genocide Reparations Committee, with the purpose of attaining restorative justice for the horrific wrongs committed against our ancestors. At its core, the committee is driven by the motivation that restitution for the great national dispossession of the Armenian people may be realized in courts of justice.  The AGRC is led by Armen K. Hovannisian, who notes that preparations are underway for the commencement of relevant legal actions.  It is anticipated that the first of these claims will be brought in the 2017-2018 term.

This year, we also look forward to holding a series of events in Chicago, Los Angeles and the East Coast, all designed to support the Armenian Bar Association’s scholarship programs and to recognize a legal educator of the year.  Through these events, I am confident that we will achieve the goal of making the Vicken I. Simonian Memorial Legal Scholarship an endowment which will guarantee in perpetuity that each year worthy Armenian students will be assisted with the tremendous cost of a legal education.

2017-2018 will also see the return of our most popular event, the Southern California Judge’s Night Dinner.   Presently, it is being planned for early November, 2017.  We are also planning to see the return of our successful 20 Under 40 event after the New Year.

At our Annual Meeting, our three-term former Chairwoman, Professor Ann Lousin, called on us to bring back the Newsletter.   This is the first edition of our revamped Newsletter and we hope you will find that it lives up to the high standards that our Chairman Emeritus, Vicken Simonian, had set.  I want to thank our veteran Editor, Armen K. Hovannisian, and all-dash purpose Board Member, Lucy Varpetian, for designing and publishing the new Newsletter.  We are introducing an online, easy-to-use format that we hope you will enjoy on a regular basis.

In closing, I want to thank my colleagues on the Board of Governors who bestowed upon me a professional and personal highlight by electing me to a second term as Chairman of the Board of Governors.    I look forward to working with my fellow board members shoulder-to-shoulder as we continue our efforts to achieve the mission of the Armenian Bar Association.  I know that each of them joins me in extending a welcome invitation to you to partake in the good work of our organization and attend our events throughout the year.

06 Jul 2017

Pro-Bono Alliance Links the Armenian Bar, Southwestern Law School’s ALSA and Neighborhood Legal Services

With the guidance and support of the Armenian Bar Association, the Armenian Law Students’ Association of Southwestern Law School (“ALSA”) has partnered with Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County (“NLSLA”) to provide pro bono services to indigent clients.  During the past year, the three organizations have met and conferred on several occasions to map out effective ways to meet the legal needs of the most vulnerable members of the community.  Brigitte Malatjalian, a third-year law student and leader at Southwestern, recognized the benefit of bridging the gap and offering this type of service in the Armenian Community and initiated the joint discussions with NLSLA.

On June 24, 2017, the first pilot clinic from this collaboration took place at the NLSLA Glendale branch. With the aim of expanding access to justice, the inaugural event focused on Expungement and Proposition 47 relief.  Volunteers – including ALSA members from Southwestern Law School, practicing attorneys including Armenian Bar members, and other community advocates – committed their respective synergies to complete several Expungement petitions.

Under the California Penal Code and Proposition 47, certain low-level, nonviolent felonies can be reclassified to misdemeanors on old criminal records or, alternatively, expunged entirely.  For many people, old criminal records that contain convictions for low-level, nonviolent crimes have created barriers to stability. Many find it difficult to secure jobs, housing, student loans and other opportunities for economic security and family stability.

Through the leadership of NLSLA supervising attorney, Kevin Reyes, participants engaged in a very smooth process where the clients were instructed to obtain their Court Dockets and DOJ Rap Sheets, then to call to make an appointment. In the meantime, NLSLA prepared folders for each anticipated client. On the day of the clinic, clients were checked in and welcomed into private rooms where they were assisted with the appropriate paperwork, including the preparation of motions, declarations, and next-step instructions.  Each consultation lasted more than an hour. Mr. Reyes stated, “As a result of all your hard work, we were able to help ten clients with 16 expungements. That’s ten people who are one step closer to breaking down the barriers they face to employment, housing, reunifying with their family, and restoring their civil rights. This work is helping people get a second chance at life and find employment that will allow them to better support themselves and their families.”

Future clinics are scheduled to take place the fourth Saturday of every month at the NLSLA Glendale location.   In order to promote these pro bono programs and to educate the public about the services being offered, ALSA and the Armenian Bar will access their contacts in the Armenian community, such as  English/Armenian newspapers, broadcast media, and various community centers, educational institutions, and churches.

Armenian Bar Association Student Affairs Committee Chairwoman, Lucy Varpetian, remarked, “The pilot clinic was successful in many immediate and impactful ways. Not only were clients provided with a second chance through the expungement program, but this clinic solidified ALSA’s, the Armenian Bar’s, and NLSLA’s alliance of public service to open and broaden the access to much-needed legal services in the Armenian community.”

For more information about the future clinics or for volunteer opportunities, please contact the Armenian Bar Association at ArmenianBar@ArmenianBar.org.

06 Jul 2017

STRONG TAILWINDS PROPEL ARMENIAN BAR’S 28TH ANNUAL MEETING IN IDYLLIC HUNTINGTON BEACH

The Armenian Bar Association celebrated its 28th year of service to the Armenian nation when its members congregated for the Annual Meeting in picturesque Huntington Beach, California on the weekend of June 9-11, 2017.

The gathering featured special guests of honor, California Supreme Court Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar and Mr. Ruben Melikyan, the Ombudsman/Human Rights Defender for the Republic of Artsakh.  Organizing committee Chairwoman and Board member, Sara Bedirian, said in an interview at the start of the weekend’s activities:  “To have Justice Cuéllar address our members—and offer potential solutions—to the deepening divide which exacerbates the unequal access to justice is nothing short of a major milestone for the Armenian Bar.  And to have Mr. Melikyan present his views on the challenges facing the Armenians of Artsakh only strengthened our organization’s resolve to embrace and assist our brothers and sisters in the homeland.”

The annual event began with a meeting of the 17 members of the Board of Governors. Board members heard from veteran executive Gary Moomjian as he provided an update on the NY/NJ/CT Chapter committee’s activities. Treasurer Gerard Kassabian reported on the status of the organization’s finances and Student Affairs Committee Co-Chairwomen, Lucy Varpetian and Elizabeth Al-Dajani, presented on a proposed amendment to the by-laws to incorporate the National Armenian Law Students’ Association into the Armenian Bar Association and also addressed the groundbreaking work of the Mentor-Mentee Program.  Scholarship Committee Chairwoman Christine Engustian addressed the progress of the scholarship committee.

Following the Friday afternoon board meeting, members and guests enjoyed an outdoor/indoor gala reception in the beautiful Royal Tern Room at the Hyatt Regency.  Rev. Father Karekin Bedourian of Forty Martyrs Armenian Apostolic Church of Orange County offered an inspirational blessing and invocation, followed by welcoming remarks by Association Chairman Saro Kerkonian.  Guests partook in a deliciously abundant dinner and cocktails in the midst of a cool ocean breeze and an open view of the Pacific Ocean.

On Saturday, June 10, 2017, the meeting began with a comprehensive report from Karnig Kerkonian, Co-Chair of the Armenian Rights Watch Committee (ARWC).  Mr. Kerkonian explained that, with the leadership of Co-Chair Garo Ghazarian, “The ARWC is a grassroots initiative which identifies transgressions against fundamental rights and then acts promptly to protect and promote their positions in civil society.  Our mission is to stand and deliver a laser-like focus on human rights and civil rights violations in order to help ensure the enshrinement of a recognized and respected bill of rudimentary rights for our fellow citizens, both in Armenia and the Diaspora.”

Following Mr. Kerkonian’s presentation, newly-appointed Mentor-Mentee Program director, Aleksan Giragosian, spoke of the success of the program and its goals for the future.   The Mentor-Mentee report was followed by an update from Membership Committee Chairwoman Lucy Varpetian, who spoke of plans to enliven membership in the Armenian Bar Association and a report on the use of social media to promote communication with the organization’s membership.    Association Treasurer Gerard Kassabian acknowledged and thanked the meeting’s sponsors:  Mesrop Khoudagoulian, Tina Odjaghian, Golden State Bank, Judicate West, SillyBeez and Keush Ranch and gave the general assembly a breakdown of the Association’s budget and assets.

The final report came from Armen K.  Hovannisian, Chairman of the Armenian Genocide Reparations Committee (AGRC).  Mr. Hovannisian shared that the AGRC committee members have been exploring and honing in on definitive stratagems involving an array of legal theories to address Genocide-related civil wrongs.  Mr. Hovannisian stated “From our perspective, monetary settlements will bring only fleeting gratification to our cause and will do little to help heal our people’s open wounds.    Our aim is to secure verdicts in courts of law against the Republic of Turkey and those who have profited from the great national dispossession of the Armenian homeland.”

The meeting of the general membership then continued with the election and re-election of six board members, including:  Christine Engustian, Garo Ghazarian, Armen K. Hovannisian, Vanna Kitsinian, Gary Moomjian and Lucy Varpetian.  There was also unanimous approval of the amendment to the by-laws which will formalize the incorporation of the National Armenian Law Students Association as part of the Armenian Bar Association.  The National ALSA will be given a representative seat on the board of governors.

Professor Jessica Peake of the UCLA Promise Institute for Human Rights, which recently received a significant grant from the late Kirk Kerkorian’s philanthropic legacy, educated the guests about the purpose of the Institute and asked for the Armenian Bar Association and other community organizations to participate in the Institute’s work.

The business meeting was followed by the first legal education panel on the current situation in the Republic of Artsakh and the work of its Human Rights Defender, Mr. Ruben Melikyan.  In addition to Mr. Melikyan, the panel featured the expertise of Nora Hovsepian, the Chairwoman of the Armenian National Committee of America–Western Region and Los Angeles County Assistant District Attorney Amy Ashvanian and was moderated by Asbarez English Editor Ara Khatchatourian.  Together the panelists and moderator unveiled and explained the intricate and uplifting work of the Artsakh Human Rights Defender, the fallout from the Four Day War of April 2016, and the current situation facing the Armenians of Artsakh.

Then came the Grand Luncheon.  With the cadence and aplomb of a seasoned toastmaster, Karnig Kerkonian provided an entertaining and engaging introduction of his undergraduate roommate at Harvard University, the Honorable Justice of the California Supreme Court Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar. Canvasing the crowd with soft and humorous touches of nostalgia set in Harvard Yard, Mr. Kerkonian reflected on their college days when Tino was introduced by Karnig to Armenian dance, music and other aspects of the Armenian culture.  Mr. Kerkonian lightheartedly emphasized that Justice Cuéllar’s years since graduating from Harvard have been a quest in search of his “inner Armenian-ness.”  Justice Cuéllar thanked Mr. Kerkonian for the best introduction he has ever had and provided the guests with a compelling address on the subject of the California courts and how it is incumbent on them to ensure that it is a judicial system that provides equal and unfettered access to justice for all.

In the afternoon, Armenian Bar members were given an eye-opening opportunity to inform their knowledge and sharpen their skills with a frank and free-flowing exchange of perspectives from those who serve from behind the bench.  Featured on the judicial panel were three highly-respected California jurists, Judge Andre Manssourian, Judge Maria Daghlian-Hernandez and Judge Gassia Apkarian.  With artful and insightful interlocution, San Francisco-area star litigator Ara Jabagchourian served as moderator.

The Executive Committee of the Board of Governors was selected at a Board Meeting on Saturday afternoon, during which the following officers were installed: Saro Kerkonian–Chairman, Kathy Ossian–Vice-Chairwoman, Gerard Kassabian–Treasurer, Vanna Kitsinian—Secretary, and Harry Dikranian of Montreal remains as Chairman Ex-Officio.

The weekend’s activities concluded with a Saturday night dinner with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean at the popular BLK Earth Sea Spirits.

At the conclusion of the conference, Armenian Bar Vice-Chairwoman, Kathy Ossian of Detroit, stated “Following on the heels of our successful Annual Meeting, we look forward with great anticipation to the coming year for our organization.   We welcome you and invite you to participate as the Armenian Bar Association sets new milestones in the 2017-2018 year.”

View the photo gallery by clicking here.

View the meeting video and panel discussions by clicking here.

03 Jul 2017

ARMENIAN BAR ASSOCIATION AND ITS ARWC CONDEMN THE TRAMPLING OF SASNA DZRER DEFENDANTS’ “RIGHT TO COUNSEL” AND DUE PROCESS, MISTREATMENT AND BEATINGS IN CUSTODY, AND INTIMIDATION OF AND THREATS LEVIED AGAINST DEFENSE ATTORNEYS IN YEREVAN COURTHOUSE

Armenian Bar Association and its ARWC call for the authorities to immediately restore order, and guarantee that defendants are afforded full due process without the threat of violence being committed against them and their counsel.

In civil society, a courthouse is hallowed ground. A sanctuary where the rule of law is hailed as predominant above all else. A bastion where a common citizen can seek redress and reclaim his liberty, when a government’s zeal at control, overreaches the bounds of reasonableness and becomes an arbitrary and capricious abuse of discretion. In civil society, a courthouse is not a boxing ring where a government can flex its muscle of brutality against those who seek reform.

The Armenian Rights Watch Committee—ARWC of the Armenian Bar Association has repeatedly and often singularly spoken out about the situation concerning the pretrial detention of those charged in connection with the Sasna Dzrer movement of last summer.

Thursday’s brutality in a Yerevan courthouse, as confirmed by Armenia’s ombudsman and reported and seen on video-footage, where as many as fifteen government security forces used the courthouse as a beating ground of Sasna Dzrer defendants and their counsel is another in a cascade of low points of reckless state action in this ongoing deplorable saga.

The ARWC strongly condemns the overt violence inflicted upon the Sasna Dzrer defendants and harassment of their defense attorneys. As an organization of lawyers, judges and legal scholars, the Armenian Bar Association also vehemently condemns the attack upon the independence of the Armenian judiciary that this assault represents.

Rough-housing and intimidation attacks leveled against legal counsel for defendants, who are officers of the court, is an affront by the Executive branch to Armenia’s entire judicial system and cannot be tolerated.

The Armenian Bar Association and its ARWC call on the authorities to immediately restore order, guarantee that defendants are afforded full due process without the threat of violence being committed against them and their counsel, and urge that prosecutorial authorities bring to justice those who committed these acts, and to account for their actions.

ARMENIAN RIGHTS WATCH COMMITTEE
—ARWC
ARMENIAN BAR ASSOCIATION

16 Jun 2017

THE ARMENIAN RIGHTS WATCH COMMITTEE (ARWC) OF THE ARMENIAN BAR ASSOCIATION LAUDS US PROSECUTORS FOR HOLDING ERDOGAN’S THUGS ACCOUNTABLE

In prior weeks, the Armenian Rights Watch Committee repeatedly called on lady justice to rise and reproach the craven animals owned and operated by Turkey’s President Erdogan for their May 16, 2017 bloodthirsty savagery on U.S. soil against law-abiding protesters in Washington D.C.

While we have not been alone in our demands for the responsible parties to be brought to justice (others demanded too), it is gratifying for us—a bar association comprised of lawyers, prosecutors, judges, academicians and law students—to see our call heeded and decisive action finally taken, as prosecutors filed charges yesterday against at least 14 members of Turkish President Erdogan’s security detail.

The accusations against each of those charged stem from their respective roles in last month’s brutal beatings of peaceful demonstrators protesting Erdogan’s policies during his visit to the U.S. capitol. The charges brought against these bestial assailants include felony assault allegations. To date, and pursuant to D.C. Superior Court arrest warrants, two additional individuals have now been apprehended.

We now call upon prosecutors to invoke relevant and codified exceptions to diplomatic immunities and to commence extradition proceedings against the Turkish fugitives. We further urge prosecutors to forego dismissal of any underlying charges through plea negotiations. In the event that any of those responsible for the carnage opt to accept responsibility for their crimes by pleading guilty, we demand that their guilty pleas to be as to all charges levied against them and that such pleas be accompanied with admissions of any aggravating allegations and enhancements.

We are pleased that our voices of discontent were heard—particularly in the face of the White House’s meager lamentations about what was openly witnessed worldwide as a brutal onslaught carried out by the head of a foreign government’s security detail against U.S. citizens. We look forward to and await the day when commensurate justice will be meted out to those who are found culpable in our courts of law, fairly and equitably—much unlike, of course, courtrooms in Turkey.

To be clear, we shall continue to be vigilant to ensure that law and order are, as they surely must be, restored. Turkey’s importing of insidious anarchy and rabid bellicosity is not welcome in this country. When “guests” on American soil violate and blatantly disregard our laws—in vile and violent ways—we must not cede an inch of our most cherished and protected freedoms of speech, association and peaceful assembly.

Let no one doubt our American–Armenian brand of fierce resolve. We vow to remain engaged, and we will vigilantly follow the progress of these arrests and charges to their just conclusion. To be sure, our engagement and monitoring of these developments will be unwavering every step of the way. It will be—as all things we commit to—fierce. And, on this matter, more so than ever before, we will be at our fiercest.

07 Jun 2017

ARWC OF ARMENIAN BAR ASSOCIATION APPLAUDS THE RESOLUTION OF THE US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND RENEWS ITS CALL FOR THE US EXECUTIVE BRANCH TO METE OUT JUSTICE AGAINST ASPIRING SULTAN ERDOGAN AND HIS THUGS FOR THE CARNAGE OF MAY 16, 2017 IN WASHINGTON DC

The Armenian Rights Watch Committee (ARWC) of the ARMENIAN BAR ASSOCIATION welcomes today’s unanimous resolution of the US House of Representatives (USHR) condemning the violence by the Turkish president’s bodyguards, which took place targeting innocent protesters in Washington DC on May 16, 2017.

While we applaud the strong message issued by our country’s legislature, the ARWC continues to maintain our call to the executive branch of our government, as set forth in our earlier statement entitled “…Weakness is not an option with Turkey,” dated May 25, 2017.

To reiterate, our country’s executive branch too must speak, and it must speak out forcefully and in unison with the legislative branch. It must unequivocally declare that our government will not stand idly by when agents of a foreign government at the direction of their leader — as done by Erdogan of Turkey — answer a tyrant’s call for violence of barbaric proportions to be inflicted on US citizens while they exercise their constitutional rights.

The executive branch must mete out commensurate consequences against these thuggish Turkish security personnel who heeded their bellicose president’s orders and, in so doing, they had the unbridled audacity to attack the Capitol’s law enforcement officers. All this while our peace officers were engaged in fulfillment of their sworn duties — to protect and serve our fellow citizens and their rights of “peaceful assembly” and “freedom of expression” guaranteed under our Constitution. All this on American soil, no less!

The executive branch must heed the example of the USHR, and, starting with the White House and on to the Department of State and beyond take swift action to condemn and to penalize the actors who participated in the carnage. It must exact equitable justice against the so-called Turkish republic’s authoritarian head of state and the 21st century’s aspiring sultan Erdogan for the vile disrespect shown by him and at his direction against our nation and its values, on that infamous afternoon of May 16, 2017.

Armenian Rights Watch Committee—ARWC
ARMENIAN BAR ASSOCIATION

24 Mar 2017

Formation of Judicial Evaluation Committee

The Armenian Bar Association has assembled a team of accomplished and highly-reputed trial attorneys from across California to serve as members of the organization’s newly-established Judicial Evaluation Committee (JEC).

Spearheading the sizable efforts of the JEC are its two esteemed co-chairpersons, Garo Ghazarian and Lucy Varpetian.  Mr. Ghazarian is a powerhouse criminal defense attorney and a former two-time chair of the Armenian Bar.  Ms. Varpetian is a seasoned Glendale Senior Assistant City Attorney and a former Armenian Bar Executive Director. The committee’s mission is to evaluate applicants and potential appointees to the California judicial bench and to make recommendations to the Governor and the Appointments Secretary for those candidates who are deemed to be well-qualified.

“Advancing the rule of law, protecting rights, and enforcing responsibilities are the enduring touchstones of the Armenian Bar Association.  Those objectives are best met with an independent, unbiased and irreproachable judiciary. We believe that the Governor and the State of California will benefit from our recommendations as to the best and brightest candidates that our community has to offer,” said Garo Ghazarian, who also serves as the co-chair of the Association’s dynamic Armenian Rights Watch Committee.

The framework for the committee’s calling and charge was developed with the strategic guidance and worldly-wise advice of recently-retired California Supreme Court Justice and Honorary Armenian Bar Lifetime Member, Marvin Baxter. For several years before his own appointment to the bench, Justice Baxter served as Appointments Secretary to California Governor George Deukmejian.

“We were most fortunate to have in our corner the inimitable Justice Baxter and to be able to draw deeply from his incomparable experience and insights as Governor Deukmejian’s Appointments Secretary,” said Lucy Varpetian, who currently and for many years has served as a member of the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Judicial Election Evaluation Committee.

In a recent interview, Armenian Bar Chairman Saro Kerkonian stated, “We are very excited to embark on this new mission for the Armenian Bar Association and believe that, through our efforts, we will soon see the appointment of a growing number of highly well-qualified attorneys of Armenian descent making the ranks of California’s distinguished judiciary.”

The organizing body recognized that to have an effective voice in the judicial appointment process, it would be necessary that the recommendations be made by those with proven talent and relevant experience as trial attorneys.  JEC’s membership is comprised of the following Armenian Bar members, in alphabetical order, with only introductory notes of their storied and celebrated careers.

JEC Co-Chairs:

fe3f936f-3269-41a6-aa36-23dc39393f59Garo B. Ghazarian – Encino, CA—Mr. Ghazarian is the chief litigation attorney and principal of his own criminal defense firm, handling complex white collar crime cases in federal courts nationwide and serious felony and misdemeanor matters in California state courts.  For more than twenty years, he has served as the Dean and Professor of Law at Peoples College of Law and is also a Civil Service Commissioner in the City of Glendale.  Mr. Ghazarian appears regularly as a legal commentator on many national and worldwide television news programs.

 

 

e073b086-79e2-47fa-9043-ba57c412ab9dLucy Varpetian – Glendale, CA- Ms. Varpetian, a Senior Assistant City Attorney in the Glendale City Attorney’s Office, has extensive experience in all aspects of city government including advising the municipality’s City Council and its Civil Service Commission.  For nearly 10 years, she has been a leading member of the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Judicial Election Evaluation Committee, implementing judicial evaluation protocols and interviewing and deliberating on the qualifications of hundreds of candidates.   Ms. Varpetian has also served as Trustee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, Chairperson of the Glendale Bar Association, and a Board Member of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council.

JEC Members:

Armen K. Hovannisian – Los Angeles, CA – Mr. Hovannisian is the longest-serving member and executive officer of the Armenian Bar Association, serving continuously since the organization’s inception in 1989, including three terms as the Armenian Bar’s Chairman. Mr. Hovannisian is a premier litigator within the major claims legal office of industry-leader CHUBB, registering successes and containing critical risks in high-stakes environmental and product liability-related cases.  Previously, Mr. Hovannisian worked for more than a decade at an international law firm as a member of its acclaimed insurance coverage litigation department, appearing before state and federal trial and appellate courts, and led the firm’s award-winning pro-bono program.

Ara Jabagchourian – San Mateo, CA – Mr. Jabagchourian is a civil trial lawyer handling cases in numerous areas.  He was formerly with the Federal Trade Commission – Bureau of Competition in Washington D.C. handling antitrust conduct and merger matters.  In private practice, Mr. Jabagchourian secured the largest wrongful death jury verdict in San Diego County history and has obtained a nine- figure class action verdict that was upheld on appeal.  He has also published over two dozen articles on various topics of the law, including three law review articles, and was nominated as a finalist for the Consumer Attorneys of California, Trial Attorney of the Year Award in both 2011 and 2012.

Alexandra Kazarian – Los Angeles, CA-As a top criminal defense and trial attorney, Ms. Kazarian has handled thousands of criminal cases and conducted hundreds of preliminary hearings. She has taken over 35 cases to jury verdict, defending clients against every kind of misdemeanor and felony, including charges of murder, attempted murder, robbery, burglary, fraud, embezzlement, sex offenses, domestic violence, child abuse, drug possession and sales, DUI, and more.   In recognition of her courtroom prowess, Ms. Kazarian has been named to the “Top 20 under 40” by the National Trial Lawyers Bar.

Saro Kerkonian – Los Angeles, CA – Mr. Kerkonian, Chairman of the Armenian Bar Association, is a workers’ compensation law specialist certified by the State Bar of California, Board of Legal Specialization.  Mr. Kerkonian has been in practice for 29 years and is a Senior Trial Attorney as house-counsel for Farmers Insurance Company in defense of workers’ compensation claims.  He is the author of the California Paralegal Manual, Workers’ Compensation, published by The Rutter Group, a division of Thomson Reuters.

Edvin Minassian – Mr. Minassian, the managing partner of Tennenhouse, Minassian & Adham, has been involved as trial and appellate counsel of several landmark decisions of the California Workers’ Compensation system.  For approximately two decades, he has served as counsel for the County of Los Angeles, the City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.   He is a past, two-term chairman of the Armenian Bar.

Tina Odjaghian – Woodland Hills, CA-Ms. Odjaghian is considered one of the most experienced workers’ compensation practitioners and successful applicants’ attorney in California today.  Specializing in brain injury cases, she has registered record-breaking multi-million dollar settlements which are uncommon in California’s Workers’ Compensation system.  In addition, Ms. Odjaghian defends some of the largest corporations in America in their workers’ compensation matters, including Macy’s Corporate Services.

Warren Paboojian – Fresno, CA-Mr. Paboojian is a founding partner of Baradat & Paboojian, handling a wide range of cases from personal and catastrophic injury, wrongful death, medical malpractice, and wrongful termination.  He has litigated over 55 jury trials to verdict in Fresno County and throughout the state of California. Mr. Paboojian has recently been selected as the 2017 CAL-ABOTA Trial Lawyer of the Year. In addition to being very active in ABOTA (American Board of Trial Advocates) and a Life Fellow of the ABOTA Foundation, Mr. Paboojian is a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers, the International Society of Barristers, and the International Academy of Trial Attorneys. His honors and achievements include: 2008 Trial Lawyer of the Year for the State of California by the Consumer Attorneys of California, Super Lawyers’ Top 100 Lawyers in Northern California for 5 consecutive years, and Central California Trial Lawyers’ President’s Award for Outstanding Advocacy for Consumer Rights.

Dickran Semerdjian – San Diego, CA-Besides having tried numerous cases over his 32 years of practice, Mr. Semerdjian is a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), American Civil Roundtable, the current Chair of the State Court Sub-Committee of the American Bar Association (ABA) Standing Committee of the American Justice System, and past Chair of the ABA Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section (TIPS).  He is on the Board of the ABOTA/TIPS National Trial Academy. Mr. Semerdjian has been on the Board of Governors of the San Diego Bar Association and is the current Chairman of the San Diego Sports Alliance.

Carney Shegerian – Santa Monica, CA- Mr. Shegerian is seen by many as the pre-eminent employment law trial attorney in the United States.  He has received among the largest jury verdicts ever recorded in Los Angeles County history in the field of employee rights.  He has been recognized as Trial Lawyer of the Year by the Consumer Attorneys of Los Angeles County. His record of success for his clients, whether via substantial settlements or in a trial jury scenario, is unparalleled. Mr. Shegerian has made it his life’s mission to help those who have been wronged in the workplace and has won over 75 jury trials, including 32 seven-figure verdicts as a plaintiff’s attorney.

To learn more about the Judicial Evaluation Committee, please email: JEC@ArmenianBar.com