Category: Press Releases

20 Feb 2020

Armenian Bar Gives Students A Leg Up On Law School

On August 3 and 10, 2019, the Armenian Bar Association hosted a two-day law school preparation and study-pointers course called, “Succeeding in Law School: A Prep Course.” Approximately fifteen students, including those interested in applying to law school as well as those already admitted, participated in the inaugural classes and learned the following skills: (1) Anchoring; (2) Reading; (3) Briefing; (4) Note-Taking; (5) Synthesizing; (6) Weekly Review; (7) Time Management; (8) Outlining; and (9) Exam Writing.

This special educational outreach program was spearheaded by the Armenian Bar’s Student Affairs Committee Co-Chairman Aleksan Giragosian and was delivered with amazing ease and clarity by Zepur Simonian.  Ms. Simonian is a Supervising Research Attorney at the Los Angeles Superior Court and also an Adjunct Professor at Southwestern University School of Law.

The course targeted anyone interested in or already enrolled in law school, and the purposes were to:

  • educate students about the skills necessary to succeed in law school;
  • inform students about the rigor and seriousness of law school;
  • help prospective students make an informed decision about entering law school; and
  • expose prospective and current students to the Armenian Bar Association as a resource for the community.

 

The students’ overwhelmingly positive responses confirmed these intended goals.  Here are samples of student responses:

“I learned that organization and discipline are key. That it is important to sequentially approach and deal with the questions. Also, time management was well discussed.”

“I learned a lot about how to handle the coursework that will come along with law school and it opened my eyes to what I should expect! The course was very helpful for me!”

“I learned the importance of asking why you really want to go to law school and pursue the career of being a lawyer. I also learned on a broad sense the type of work and thinking that is expected as a law student. I liked the hands-on work and the breakdown of the material.”

Due to the overwhelmingly positive feedback, the Armenian Bar Association intends to offer this course on an annual basis.

19 Feb 2020

New York Nets Big Gains to Begin the New Year

This year’s Armenian Bar Association NYC Winter Reception was held on January 28, 2020, in Midtown Manhattan at Inside Park, St. Bart’s. Over 100 members, non-members and law students gathered for an evening of networking and camaraderie. Honoree guest, Justice John P. Colangelo, Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Third Judicial Department, was recognized for his continued support of the Armenian Bar Association. In his introductory remarks, Gary
Moomjian, former Co-Chair of the Chapter, and long-time friend of Judge Colangelo, expressed gratitude for the Judge’s attendance at many of ArmenBar’s events over the years and for the thoughtful advice the Judge provides to ArmenBar’s members who are interested in judgeships.

Scott Ohnegian and Grant Petrosyan, Co-Chairs of the Chapter, and Gary Moomjian and Denise Darmanian, former Co-Chairs, presented Judge Colangelo with an award on behalf of the Armenian Bar Association as a token of the organization’s appreciation. Judge Colangelo thanked ArmenBar for the recognition, shared stories of his involvement with the organization and noted that he had built many friendships over the years with lawyers from the Armenian community.

In addition to honoring Judge Colangelo, one of the highlights of the evening was the record number of law students in attendance. The NY-NJ-CT Chapter continues to support students and provides various opportunities in a general effort to assist the next generation of lawyers. The Chapter is currently planning its upcoming annual NYC Law Student Reception to be held in March 2020.”

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19 Feb 2020

The New “Silicon Road”: Armenia’s Emergence as the Silicon Valley of Its Region

Editor’s Note: The Armenian Bar Association, in conjunction with Armenia’s Ministry of High-Tech Industry and Orion Worldwide Innovations, LLC, organized an IP & Corporate Law Summit that took place in Yerevan, Armenia, in October 2019.  The following is an article by ArmenBar member Ara Babaian recounting his experience participating in the Summit and in the WCIT2019 event, and visiting Armenia over the years, including the country’s recent rapid progress.  At the Summit, the Committee presented its expert conclusions and recommendations that included an analysis of IP protection and corporate  law issues in Armenia.  Armenian Bar members who participated in person in the Summit included the organizers of the Summit, Emma Arakelyan and Armen Morian, as well as Ara Babaian, Lana Akopyan, Karén Tonoyan, Narek Zohrabyan, Vartan Vartanyan and Ovsanna Takvoryan.  Other contributing ArmenBar members who joined the Summit remotely included Ray Aghaian, Mark Kachigian, Tamar Donikyan and Levon Golendukhin.  The Summit was attended by Hakob Arshakyan, Minister of High Tech Industry of Armenia; Gayane Serobyan, Advisor to the Minister; Ara Khzmalyan and Hasmik Movsesyan from Adwise Consulting Law Firm; Kristine Hambaryan, AIPA leader; and 80+ Parliament members and other government officials, business, tech representatives and educators.

The New “Silicon Road”: Armenia’s Emergence as the Silicon Valley of Its Region

By Ara Babaian, Esq.

This article originally appeared in Asbarez Newspaper (available at asbarez.com) on January 24, 2020.

For over two millennia, Armenia has served as the gateway between the East and the West along the Silk Road, which stretched from the Chinese Han Dynasty to the Roman Empire and included many countries in between.  In more recent years, various governments and corporations have made infrastructure investments into countries along the Silk Road that are increasing the flow of people and goods along this ancient route.  On the digital front, Armenia has become a hub between the East and the West through a technology ecosystem that has blossomed in the landlocked country.  Having translated eastern and western cultures for thousands of years, Armenia now has become the focal point of a new cultural exchange, this time through innovation.  Today, the Republic of Armenia has made technology a strategic area of focus, intending to make itself the Silicon Valley of the region or, as I like to call it, the “Silicon Road,” due to its proximity to other high-tech hubs in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Israel, and Iran.

My First Trip to Armenia in the Dark Ages of the Early 1990s

My first trip to Armenia was in the summer of 1993 when I was a pre-med student at UC Berkeley (prior to shifting my focus to the law).  That summer, I volunteered at the Yerevan Medical Center, a hospital in Armenia, while the Nagorno-Karabagh War between Armenia and Azerbaijan was in full gear.  Due to the war, the second floor of the hospital was filled with wounded soldiers.  I volunteered in the Pediatric Burn Ward on the first floor where children were dying weekly due to electricity-related accidents.  A vivid memory for me was the amputation of a 12-year old boy’s arms.  He had been trying to bring electricity to his home so that his family could have more light.  At that time, residents in the capital were rationed one hour of electricity per day.  Many had no running water.  The conditions were no different in the hospital, which sometimes had a mere trickle of water in the clinical faucets and electricity that could fail at any time.  Doctors and nurses who had not received their official pay for months worked on a barter system directly with patients (sometimes receiving something as simple and precious as a jar of preserved fruit from a villager).

Life in Yerevan was bleak and sobering.  The winter before my arrival, the residents had chopped down all the trees for heating, so the city was barren during my hot summer there (not at all like the city’s current lush green state).  The streets were empty and desolate.  Other than NGO workers, there were very few visitors from other countries. Once the sun set, you had to walk the pocked sidewalks with an old-fashioned, pre-iPhone flashlight.  Electricity was a luxury.  I shaved by candlelight.  Corruption was rampant and so was crime.  I recall one occasion on which I was treated to dinner at the old Dvin Hotel, the only other table in the large dining room seemed to be “mafia.”

But even in the dismal state that the population was in, Armenians were still hospitable to me and shared with me their love of art and culture.  I remember poignant productions of Armenian opera at the Yerevan Opera Theatre, with singers flanked by too-skinny dancers.  I recall art shows all over the city by painters aspiring to be the next Gorky or Sarian.  I came into contact with a kindred spirit at the Sergei Parajanov Museum – the term “avant garde” might have been coined for him.  Villagers gave me bowls of wild berries to welcome me.  Men and women took time out of their work (or time out of looking for work) to grill fresh-caught trout at Lake Sevan with me.

Today’s Optimism Following the 2018 Velvet Revolution

In the intervening years between the early 1990s (after the collapse of the Soviet Union) to April and May 2018 (the two months of the Velvet Revolution), corruption was ever-present and toxic in Armenia.  According to the World Bank, in 1993, right after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Armenia’s population was 3.4 million and its gross domestic product was a mere $1.2 billion.  Although during this 30-year period the population fell to under 3 million, and its gross domestic product grew to $12.4 billion,Armenia’s growing wealth was not shared equally.  Armenia’s leaders collected billions of dollars from its citizens, built opulent homes, and drove exotic cars while the vast majority of citizens suffered.  However, in 2018, when Nikol Pashinyan led the peaceful Velvet Revolution and became the country’s new Prime Minister, things slowly started to change.

October 2019: My Recent Visit and the Many Conferences

In October 2019, I went to Yerevan, Armenia’s ancient-yet-modern capital, to participate in a number of technology and legal conferences – the World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT), the HIVE Ventures Tech Summit, and the IP & Corporate Law Summit sponsored by the Armenian Bar Association (a North American organization).

During that time, Armenia was hosting even more global, regional, and local events.  A few of the events that were happening in Armenia during October included: Global Innovation Forum (regarding artificial intelligence), the Annual Eurasian Food Security Conference, the Teach for All Global Conference (preparing students to change the world), and Digitech 2019 (regional tech exhibit), among many others.  Earlier in the summer, there was also the Seaside Startup Summit held at Lake Sevan, Armenia.

A Change Has Come

This visit to Armenia, I could tell there was fantastic progress in the country the minute a young conference volunteer picked me up from Zvartnots International Airport with a driver.  She was an eloquent and beautiful recent graduate who spoke “Armenglish” to me.  Immediately, I could tell that English had replaced Russian as the dominant language for the locals, especially for the youth.

It turned out that her bright spirit was prevalent throughout Yerevan, something I wasn’t accustomed to during the dark ages.  This time, I could feel the optimism and youth virtually everywhere I turned in the capital.  During the tech conferences, I saw college students volunteering and recent graduates contributing to the excitement in the air.  As a result of the various conferences, but also because of the native energy in the country, like-minded entrepreneurs and professionals were having both formal and chance meetings with each other to discuss groundbreaking technology startup and investment matters.

Scenes from The Conferences

As Armenians, we expend tremendous energy focusing on the past because of Turkey’s continued denial of the Genocide (despite its recent near-unanimous recognition by the U.S. House of Representatives and unanimous recognition by the U.S. Senate).  You can imagine how exhilarating it was for me to see a sign at a futurism exhibit at the WCIT that said, “the future is Armenia.”  My eyes filled with tears as I took that in, remembering my grandfather who survived the Genocide while looking at the future in front of me.

At the HIVE Ventures Tech Summit (an initiative of the Hirair & Anna Hovnanian Foundation that invests in Armenian entrepreneurs), the tech leaders talked about “Hacking Silicon Valley.”  How do tech startups in Armenia access funding and other resources available in Silicon Valley?  How can they empower the latent talent and boost the potential of the country?  As Armenians have always valued a solid education for their children, it is no surprise that this landlocked Christian country has more engineers and PhDs per capita than you could imagine.  These individuals were coming to this conference to learn about how to harness this education and turn their knowledge into a business, creating a new economy for the region.

Finally, at the Armenian Bar’s IP & Corporate Law Summit organized by the Ministry of High-Tech Industry and Orion Worldwide Innovations, LLC, on day one, we focused on finetuning the proposed changes that we were going to propose to the government regarding intellectual property and corporate laws – in other words, how to make the regulatory environment more friendly to both investors and inventors.  On day two, we presented our recommendations to members of Parliament and other officials.  I was honored to speak at this event about corporate law topics such as changing the law to allow Armenian companies to give stock options to employees, allow for the possibility of non-voting stock, and permit convertible securities.

Some of the best meetings of my trip weren’t made at the conferences, but instead, chance connections made on the street as I bumped into people I knew or got to meet from the American East and West coasts, Europe, and Asia, and locally.  I felt that Armenia again was the center on the Silk Road between the East and the West.

The Past and the Future

There still are many serious issues that Armenia must address.  The country has large obstacles to deal with.  For example, in the IP & Corporate Law Summit, we explored the following areas to foster innovation and startup investment:

  • Statutory damages and administrative sanctions under Armenian law for IP violations;
  • Patenting or otherwise protecting software innovation;
  • Building the capacity of the Armenian patent office (AIPA);
  • Making Armenian corporate law suitable for VC/angel investment;
  • Protecting minority shareholders under Armenian corporate law;
  • Protecting IP in educational and scientific institutions.

 

These are huge issues, but if the Velvet Revolution could happen in a span of two months, I am hopeful that Armenia will be able to tackle these challenges in the near future.  With a new focus on corporate and intellectual property law within the country, and with the support and involvement of Armenian professionals and businesspeople from the diaspora, I am confident changes will come fast.  With Armenia’s sharp focus on its youth, especially at groundbreaking organizations such as the TUMO Center for Creative Technologies and the Children of Armenia Fund, I am even more hopeful about the next generation of Armenians.

This time around, Armenia did feel like a homeland for me (partly because sometimes I heard my native Western Armenian dialect being spoken by the Armenian refugees from Syria alongside the local Eastern Armenian dialect).  It felt like a place that had gone far and was going to go even farther in a short period of time.  We Armenians have century- and millennium-long memories, so our thoughts of the future can be similarly broad.  But I predict the positive changes will come into fruition much faster than that.  And I look forward to being part of the new Silicon Road.

19 Feb 2020

The Armenian Bar’s Permanent Presence at Artsakh State University

 

The Armenian Bar Association-sponsored Legal Clinic located within the Artsakh State University campus is one of the positively meaningful manifestations of the Association’s official resolve to protect rights, advance education, and aid in the pursuit of democracy and justice for the Republic of Artsakh and for its citizens.

The Legal Clinic was founded in November, 2017, motivated and made possible by the Armenian Bar’s collaborative efforts with Yerevan State University and Artsakh State University itself. The main purpose of the clinic is to offer 3 rd and 4 th year undergraduate students unique opportunities to learn and develop practical legal skills through direct interaction with clients in the context of pro bono cases.

Under the supervision and support of licensed attorneys, the students provide assistance to citizens who cannot afford to retain a lawyer. The Legal Clinic simultaneously addresses two needs: first, it provides social and legal care and intervention for vulnerable and at-risk segments of society and, second, it allows for law students to gain practical experience by placing them into a real work environment where they put into action the knowledge attained in the classroom, leading to their advocacy for the clients’ interests in various courts within Artsakh.

Every year, more than 20 students enroll in the work of the Legal Clinic and, since its establishment, approximately 200 Artsakhtsis have benefited from its services. Under the auspices of this program, students were authorized to represent clients in more than a dozen cases at the First Instance Court of General Jurisdiction.

The Legal Clinic presents to Artsakh State University students the unique advantage of expanding their knowledge, honing their skills, and contributing to the well-being of the local communities.

21 Nov 2019

Southwestern Cements Foundations of Human Rights Education and Scholarship with the Republics of Armenia and Artsakh

November 21, 2019

Summer was not a season of rest or reverie at Southwestern Law School as the wheels of innovative educational initiatives spun steadily forward from July to September.

(L-R) Dr. Arman Tatoyan, Human Rights Defender, Republic of Armenia; Artak Beglaryan, Human Rights Ombudsman, Artsakh Republic; Robert Avetisyan, Artsakh’s Permanent Representative to the U.S.

This July, Southwestern Law School hosted distinguished guests from the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh, including the Human Rights Defender of each Republic, along with Board members of the Armenian Bar Association. Their goal: explore possible opportunities for collaboration between Southwestern and the Human Rights Defender’s Offices of the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh relating to legal education and the protection of human rights.

Based on the productive meeting, Vice Dean Dov Waisman and Professor Anahid Gharakhanian, with the enthusiastic support of Dean Susan Prager, presented the following opportunities to Armenia and Artsakh’s Human Rights Defender’s Offices: (1) providing full scholarships for Southwestern’s LL.M. Program as well as enrollment in various courses, and (2) hosting visiting scholars interested in advancing their scholarship and professional development. These arrangements were formalized in memoranda of understanding executed between Southwestern and respectively Dr. Arman Tatoyan, Human Rights Defender, Republic of Armenia, and Mr. Artak Beglaryan, Human Rights Ombudsman, Republic of Artsakh – both of whom partook in the initial July meeting at Southwestern.

Invaluable legal advice and knowledge received from prominent lawyers of the Armenian Bar Association and the professors of the Southwestern Law School will firmly contribute to the enrichment of the human rights system of Armenia and build the capacities of the National Human Rights Constitutional Institution of Armenia. In its turn, this will produce results that make us more competitive in the international arena.

Dr. Arman Tatoyan, the Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Armenia


This is an exciting and bright opportunity for Artsakh lawyers and students to hone their human rights-related skills and knowledge, as well as to explore the developments and trends in international and American law. Thanks to the Armenian Bar Association and Southwestern leaderships, the Artsakh human rights protection system will get a fresh and effective contribution in terms of its capacity building, which is highly needed because of the lack of the country’s international engagement.

– Artak Beglaryan, the Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Artsakh


The Armenian Bar Association, led by Gerard Kassabian ’01 and Lucy Varpetian ’96, respectively Chair and Co-Chair, played a key role in facilitating the relationship between Southwestern and the Human Rights Defenders and will continue to provide support in the implementation of the various components of the agreements.


With Southwestern’s longstanding record of educating Armenian-American lawyers, this is the perfect law school to also contribute to the further development of lawyers in Armenia and to bring the two communities of lawyers together!

Dean Susan Prager


“This exciting new program is another step forward in strengthening the symbiotic bonds between Southwestern and the Republic of Armenia and establishing a new relationship with the Republic of Artsakh,” remarked Ms. Varpetian.  From 2012-14, Southwestern and the Republic of Armenia partnered in the Southwestern Law School Armenia Fellowship Program, during which an American-trained lawyer worked at Armenia’s Justice Ministry in Yerevan to help develop and strengthen the rule and administration of law in that young democracy.

06 Nov 2019

Young Students Learn From Armenian Bar Trial Advocacy Coaches

For the fifth year, the Armenian Bar Association has facilitated a program consisting of its own volunteer members to teach and train Armenian high school and middle school students for the annual Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF) Mock Trial Program. These volunteer attorneys, consisting of prosecutors, defense attorneys, and other types of practitioners, work to introduce school educators and students to the program and, more importantly, they serve as hands-on helpful coaches.

Following months of after-school training regimens and intensive practice sessions, the latest installment of the CRF competition in Los Angeles County culminated in November 2019 in lifelike courtroom proceedings.  Each school assembled a team of litigation participants for a criminal law case whose common fact pattern formed the basis of the presentations. In head-to-head competitions presided over by actual sitting judges and eminent lawyers, the students assumed the roles of prosecutors, defense attorneys, witnesses and bailiffs.

The participating schools are AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School (both middle and high schools); Manoukian High School; and Mesrobian Armenian School (both middle and high school teams).  Special thanks to our attorney-coaches: MDS Middle School – Tony Forberg and Janine Soukasian; MDS High School – Rouman Ebrahim, Naris Khalatian, Armen Mitilian and Aslin Tutuyan; MHS – Ani Papirian; Mesrobian Middle School – Ashod Mooradian; Mesrobian High School – Alexandra Kazarian and Ashod Mooradian. Judge Armenui Ashvanian has provided additional support to the students with courtroom visits, and meetings with the Offices of the District Attorney and Public Defender.  She has also helped prepare students with scrimmages leading up to the competition.  

In 1980, the CRF introduced the Mock Trial program, which already had a strong following in Los Angeles County, to all the counties in California. The program was created to help students acquire a working knowledge of the judicial system, develop analytical abilities and communication skills, and gain an understanding of their obligations and responsibilities as participating members of our society. The program currently involves 36 California counties, hundreds of schools, and thousands of students.

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    MDS Middle Mock trail 2019
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18 Oct 2019

TWO FULL BITES OF THE BIG APPLE: MIDYEAR MEETING AND 20 UNDER 40 RISING STARS GALA

In the pleasing allure of autumn in New York City, the Armenian Bar Association held its debonair Midyear Meeting in the gilded halls of the vintage and still-lustrous Princeton Club.   Marked by extraordinary panel discussions about the exciting, challenging and changing landscapes in employment law, international practice and cross-border ADR, the hundred-some meeting attendees were at once informed and regaled by the presenters’ incisive and good-humored presentations.  The weekend program featured an upscale luncheon in a room whose walls were decked with the canvases of some of the leading pioneers who built America’s industry and, indeed, America itself.  The mid-year legal jamboree surged to sublime heights with a spectacular awards dinner celebrating the Armenian Bar’s top 20 lawyers under 40 years old who hail from many different communities in North America.

 “Our 2019 Midyear Meeting was a wonderful opportunity to showcase our rising stars in an elegant and enlightening environment, all the while making everyone feel right at home,” reflected Armenian Bar Association Chairperson Gerard V. Kassabian.  “With such outstanding quality young professionals who are fast-becoming masters at their craft while also maintaining and enlivening their traditional Armenian heritage, the Armenian Bar is doubly-blessed and singularly-gratified,” added Vice Chairperson Lucy Varpetian.

The annual gathering began on Friday, October 18, 2019, in the conference room of the doors-always-open law firm of Gallo & Darmanian, where the Association’s elected leadership met to discuss important legal issues impacting our community and ways in which to impact them most positively. Among the internal issues discussed were the recent establishment of the Armenian Bar’s permanent pro-bono services office in Glendale, California, the rapid expansion and engagement of the Association’s student and younger members, the evermore rising tide of the work of the Armenian Rights Watch Committee in Armenia and in Artsakh, and the call to action and activism coming from the Armenian Genocide Reparations Committee.   Following the Board meeting, members and guests were treated at the Princeton Club to a festive and entertaining reception where there was something for everyone, with old friends refreshing their cheers and new friends looking like they were onto something special.  

The meeting on Saturday morning began with a captivating panel discussion focused on cutting-edge employment and labor law issues. Panelists included Armen McOmber (McOmber & McOmber) , Maral Kazanjian (The We Company) and John Shahdanian (Chassan Lamparello). The panel was moderated by Armenian Bar Board and Executive Committee Member, Scott Ohnegian (Riker Danzig). The CLE program also included an interesting and enjoyable headline panel which peered into international law and alternative dispute resolution developments, including advancements in ADR as it affects the Republic of Armenia and those who transact business there. Panelists included Grant Hanessian (Baker McKenzie), Harout Samra (DLA Piper) and Levon Golendukhin (Dentons). The second panel was moderated by Armenian Bar doyen Denise Darmanian (Gallo & Darmanian).

Michael Bobelian, an award-winning author, lawyer, and journalist rose as the brilliant centerpiece to the luncheon podium from which he caught and kept people’s attention with a fascinating synopsis of his recently-published book, Battle for the Marble Palace: Abe Fortas, Earl Warren, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and the Forging of the Modern Supreme Court Palace.

The weekend reached its exhilarating crescendo with a magnum-opus awards gala held in the Princeton Club’s beautifully-appointed grand ballroom. Nearly 300 enthusiasts were all smiles, united in a unique brand of happiness that the Armenian Bar has become known to produce.  There together, we celebrated the accomplishments of 20 of our young professionals who have distinguished themselves in their professions and who have made meaningful contributions to their respective communities. The honorees, whose biographies may be found at https://armenianbar.org/rising-stars-award/#, were Lana Akopyan (New York), Liz Al-Dajani (Chicago),  Silvia Babikian Pacia (New York),  Alex Hrag Bastian (San Francisco), Aram Gavoor (Washington, D.C.), Steve Gokberk (New York),  Allen Haroutounian (Los Angeles), Irina Hovhannisyan (New York), Alexandra Kazarian (Los Angeles), Aram Kerkonian (Montreal),  Mariam Kuregyan (Los Angeles), Malvina Mardirosyan (New York), Yelena Nersesyan (New York), Paul Der Ohannesian (New York),  Vicky Ourfalian (Los Angeles), Tigran Palyan (Los Angeles),  Harout Samra (Miami), Vartges Saroyan (New York), Karen Tonoyan (New York), and Kristapor Vartanian (Los Angeles).

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15 Oct 2019

Armenian Bar’s Judges’ Night Attracts Hundreds of Enthusiasts, Scores of Judges

On October 1, 2019, the Armenian Bar Association welcomed 70 members of the state and federal judiciaries at its Annual Judges’ Night Dinner in Glendale, California. Despite it being a Tuesday evening, hundreds gathered at the magnificent Phoenicia Restaurant to honor California Court of Appeal Justice Helen I. Bendix and California Superior Court Judge Ruth Ann Kwan for their distinguished service and their exemplary roles as paragons of integrity and emulation.

“It was a thrill and a blessing to have such a flourishing wealth of federal, appellate and trial court judges join us as we recognized two exemplary jurists for their unwavering commitment to the advancement of the rule of law and the administration of justice,” stated Armenian Bar Executive Committee Member, Saro Kerkonian.

The Annual Judges’ Night Dinner honors jurists who have distinguished themselves beyond the laudable lines of high intellect, efficiency and consistency.  It singles out for distinction those who have opened broadly the public’s access to justice, advanced the precepts of the rule of law, incorporated compassion into the fabric of their characters, and guided others in profession and in life.

Phoenicia’s outside patio swelled with pre-dinner chat and cheer during the bustling social hour, a felicitous prelude to the allure of the heaping, luscious Armenian fare at the tables. The main event began with masterful flutist, Salpy Kerkonian, performing the national anthems of the United States and the Republic of Armenia.

“I am extremely proud of our achievement tonight and must emphasize that it is our humble privilege to welcome 70 judges, which is more than double or triple the number of judges that appear at virtually any other bar association’s judges night event!” said Chairman Gerard Kassabian. “Our Annual Judges’ Night is also very special because it gives us the opportunity to create meaningful and often life-enhancing connections when we introduce sitting judges to aspiring law students.  This rich tradition grows in popularity year after year!”

The master of ceremonies, legal eagle Armen Akaragian, delighted the audience with quick-witted jokes and profound improvisations throughout the evening. Stepping off-stage, Akaragian reflected, “It truly was special to be part of such a memorable night where we all reveled in the glow of so many distinguished jurists and outstanding professionals.”

Honorable Zaven Sinanian of the California Superior Court opened with a heartfelt introduction of the first honoree, Justice Helen Bendix. He enumerated Justice Bendix’s accomplishments during her tenure within the Los Angeles Superior Court’s Mandatory Settlement program, including noting that Justice Bendix shepherded the program into the success that it is today. Judge Sinanian’s fond memories of working with Justice Bendix provided a gracious touch to the already-familial affair. Accompanying Justice Bendix at the event were her husband, U.S. District Court Judge John Kronstadt, and their children.

Justice Bendix graciously received her well-deserved honor, thanking the Armenian Bar for selecting her for the commendation. Of Jewish descent, Justice Bendix spoke movingly about the deep connections between the Armenian and Jewish peoples, including their shared trait of enduring the challenges of their harsh histories, leading each community to be more resilient than ever.

Judge Kevin Brazile, who is the Presiding Judge of the entire Los Angeles Superior Court system, introduced the next honoree, Judge Ruth Ann Kwan. He took a somewhat different and refreshing approach by sharing beautiful and captivatingly-positive comments made by other judges about Judge Kwan. On a personal note, Judge Brazile indicated that Judge Kwan had encouraged him to take affirmative steps to support greater diversity on the bench.

Judge Kwan accepted her award to a rousing ovation and praised the Armenian Bar, describing her interesting path to the judiciary. To many people’s surprise, her journey to the bench included more Armenians than many may have expected. Judge Kwan recalled that when she began considering a role in the judiciary, her husband’s business associate, Ashot, introduced her to none other than Judge Dickran Tevrizian over lunch at the Tevrizian home. With first impressions being the lasting one, Judge Tevrizian wrote her a letter of recommendation immediately after the lunch. Judge Kwan also recalled that when she was challenged while on the bench, the Armenian community of Montebello helped her secure the election and retain her seat.

As is the tradition for honorees at the Annual Judges’ Nights, Judge Kwan and Justice Bendix were presented with beautiful works of classical, illuminated art prepared by renowned artist Seroon Yeretsian, each with peaceful, majestic representations of heavenly peacocks and with original inscriptions of praise and honor.

In an evocative musical interlude, Salpy Kerkonian channeled the stirring, expressive works of Komitas and Aram Khachaturian. She embellished her musical inflections with poignant background information about Komitas, paying homage to the great muse for bringing traditional Armenian melodies to the modern era.

Also part of the evening program, not planned but most appropriate, saw Chairman Kassabian making public the Armenian Bar’s appreciation for the altogether comprehensive commitment of the chief engineer of the event, the Association’s Vice-Chairperson, Lucy Varpetian.

The Annual Judge’s Night was an event to remember. “This was my first time at the Judge’s Night and I came away impressed by the vast array of judges who came, obviously enjoyed, and stayed till the end. Kuddos to the Armenian Bar Association for getting together so many amazing and talented legal professionals for an unforgettable night,” said Arthur Saakian, a Glendale litigator.

See more photos in our gallery.

16 Aug 2019

Upstanding Robert Morgenthau Laid To Rest

On July 22, 2019, the Armenian Bar Association, like legion of admirers within and outside of the Armenian community, heard with deep sorrow and accepted with heavy heart the news of the passing of a bold and brave paragon of high moral character, Robert M. Morgenthau.

Mr. Morgenthau passed away 10 days short of his 100th birthday and will be remembered as an irreproachable public figure, most notably—for Americans – as New York’s long-serving district attorney and—for Armenians—as the grandson of U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau.

Knowing well that the Morgenthau family inhabits a hallowed sanctuary within the annals of American and Armenian history, separately and inter-connectedly, our leadership in New York immediately contacted the Foreign Minister of Armenia, Armenia’s Ambassador to the U.S., and Armenia’s Ambassador to the United Nations, advising of the rueful report of Mr. Morgenthau’s passing and requesting a letter of condolence from Armenia’s Prime Minister.   We also reached out to our spiritual leaders at the Diocese and the Prelacy, securing their representation at Mr. Morgenthau’s memorial service.

We, for our own part, prepared and issued a timely and touching press release. [See Armenian Bar Association Mourns the Loss of Robert M. Morgenthau.] It was widely disseminated among our members and friends.

On the eve of the memorial service at the Frank Campbell Funeral Chapel, accompanied by U.N. Ambassador Mher Margaryan and with the facilitation of Ambassador Varuzhan Nersesyan, Armenian Bar Board member Souren Israelyan personally delivered Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s letter of condolence to the Morgenthau family in which the head of government conveyed the Armenian nation’s sympathies and gratitude. [See https://www.primeminister.am/en/condolence/item/2019/07/24/Nikol-Pashinyan-condolences/.]

On the morning of the memorial service, July 25, 2019, a delegation of Armenian Bar representatives assembled in homage to and honor of Mr. Morgenthau at Temple Emanu-El, Judaism’s largest house of worship in the world.  The Morgenthau family envisioned the service as a celebration of Robert Morgenthau’s resplendent lights of life rather than as a mournful elegy of his demise.  The temple teemed with thousands of devotees of the lasting legacy of Mr. Morgenthau.  Prominent among the attendees were priests of the Armenian Church who, cloaked in our centuries-old religious vestments, greeted the family and represented our traditional faith and unifying ecumenicalism.

As widely reported in the media, United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and the high societies of law and public officialdom came together in a non-partisan tribute to the rectitude and righteousness of Mr. Morgenthau. [See for example https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nydailynews.com/new-york/ny-morgenthau-funeral-sotomayer-20190725-flpwdgupijevdoxy5r4ogcgmya-story.html%3foutputType=amp.]

At the memorial service, Senior Rabbi Emeritus Ronald Sobel highlighted the transformational heritage of the Morgenthau family, starting with Henry Morgenthau, Sr.,  the U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire during the Armenian Genocide, followed by Henry Morgenthau, Jr., the U.S. Secretary of Treasury during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration, and then encapsulated by the dearly departed, Robert Morgenthau. Mr. Morgenthau’s children and close friends spoke about his incredible life and as an exemplar of an honest and high-minded individual who, through the gift of a long and distinguished life, pioneered many causes of justice, to the very last of his days.

In his eulogy, Bob Morgenthau, the eldest of Robert Morgenthau’s sons, remembered how his father cherished loyalty in general, and the allegiance of the Armenian community in particular. He noted that, while all of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide have passed away, the Armenian community’s bonds of respect and admiration for the Morgenthau family have never diminished.  Speaking about that continuity of affinity, Bob Morgenthau pledged that the Morgenthau family’s deep and meaningful relationship with the Armenian community will remain vibrant for future generations.

While the Armenian Bar Association felt humbled last month to witness the truly moving ceremony of Robert Morgenthau’s final journey, just last year we had the good fortune of welcoming Mr. Morgenthau to our Public Servants Dinner at the Yale Club.

There, on April 26, 2018, on what have been the 162nd birthday of his grandfather Henry Morgenthau, Robert Morgenthau received one of the Armenian Bar Association’s highest honors.  The magnificent gala dinner was attended by hundreds of judges, public officials, dignitaries and, of course, by members and friends of the Armenian Bar Association.  Please see our reporting of the event and also for the text of Robert Morgenthau’s remarks as he accepted our Public Servants Award. [Video] [Speech]

15 Aug 2019

Our Thirty Wonder Years

Celebrating the 30th anniversary of its founding, the Armenian Bar Association returned to the place of its provenance, exhilarated with the energy and excitement of the Los Angeles metropolis, to convene its annual meeting on the weekend of June 28-30, 2019.

The conference showcased the Association’s enduring activism and valuable output in one of its seminal dimensions:  the protection, respect and importance of the human and civil rights of Armenians around the world and, in particular, in our homelands of Armenia and Artsakh.  The special guests from abroad were the Honorable Arman Tatoyan, Ombudsman and Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Armenia, Artak Beglaryan, Ombudsman and Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Artsakh, and Robert Avetisyan, the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Artsakh to the United States of America.

“We were incredibly honored that Dr. Tatoyan, Mr. Beglaryan and Mr. Avetisyan graciously accepted our invitation to attend and participate as our keynote speakers for our 30th annual meeting where our attendees learned of their outstanding and ground-breaking work in the field of human rights.  A very special added bonus was the presence and participation throughout the weekend of our Association’s founding father, Raffi K. Hovannisian,” said Chairman Gerard V. Kassabian. [See Hovannisian video.]

The conference schedule began on Friday, June 28th, with a meeting of the 18-member Board of Governors, where the Association’s leadership rolled up their sleeves and examined, with an eye towards improvement and innovation, the work of its robust collection of committees. Following the Board meeting, members and guests were treated to a festive and entertaining reception under the Southern California’s shining stars at the finely-appointed outdoor deck of the luxurious Sheraton Grand Hotel.  In a true reflection of the Association’s broad and all-embracing appeal, gathered together in the spirit of fun and fellowship were our founding members, judges, law professors, law students, friends and family. [See photos.]

The meeting on Saturday morning began with a plenary session where the multi-faceted workings of the Association’s affairs were shared and discussed.  Reports were provided by Student Affairs Committee Co-Chairs Aleksan Giragosian and Zepur Simonian, Scholarship Committee member Saro Kerkonian, Armenian Rights Watch Committee and Artsakh Law Initiative Committee Co-Chair Karnig Kerkonian, Armenian Genocide Reparations Committee Chairman Armen K. Hovannisian, Pro Bono Committee member Lucy Varpetian.  The Nominations Committee then presented the slate of recommended members to the Board of Governors.  The nominees, two accomplished newcomers and four incumbents, were unanimously approved by the membership. [See photos.]

“We are thrilled that Deputy District Attorney Alex Hrag Bastian of San Francisco and esteemed civil litigator Souren Israelyan of New York City, along with a team of veteran members, were elected to three-year terms on the Board of Governors.  They bring the passion and energy to carry forward the positive momentum that the Armenian Bar Association has developed in the past several years,” said Co-Vice Chairwoman Lucy Varpetian.

After the business portion of the meeting, the first signature panel discussion explored the plunder of historic Armenia’s native culture and civilization and an examined the legal opportunities and challenges in restoring some of what was wrongfully taken. Moderated by Board member Armen K. Hovannisian, the panel opened with a riveting visual presentation by attorney Matthew Karanian rooted in his monumental pictorial and documentary work of critical acclaim, “The Armenian Highland.”  Mr. Karanian presented a photographic simulation of his travels through Western Armenia documenting the evidence of religious sites, cultural artifacts and the remains of the heart-breaking ruins throughout the region.  [See Karanian video.] Then, in a most timely and illuminating presentation for the attendees, Thaddeus Stauber of Nixon Peabody, LLP spoke candidly about the often windy and uphill road to recover articles and areas of cultural heritage.  His perspective was thought-provoking, sobering and constructive insofar as Mr. Stauber is known to represent successfully the world’s leading cultural institutions and foreign sovereigns in connection with Nazi looted art claims.  His candid view from the other side of the litigation divide provided valuable lessons which will go a long way in informing future Armenian Genocide-related restitution efforts. [See Stauber video.]

The morning session was followed by a sumptuous luncheon where the guest speaker was the Honorable Gassia Apkarian, Judge of the Superior Court of California for the County of Orange.  Following a light-hearted, engaging, and endearing introduction by Superior Court Judge Maria Daghlian-Hernandez, Judge Apkarian offered her personal and professional insights with respect to former governmental administrations of the Republic of Armenia and posed constructive critiques of the current state of the Republic’s judiciary. 

After the luncheon, the nearly one hundred people in attendance listened and engaged with great interest the second signature panel moderated by Board member Garo B. Ghazarian. The audience heard of the extraordinary work of the Ombudsmen and Human Rights Defenders of the Republics of Armenia and Artsakh.  Messrs. Tatoyan and Beglaryan each provided a comprehensive overview of the purpose of their offices and how they and their staff members go about achieving their institutional objectives.  Both Ombudsmen emphasized that their positions are non-partisan and that they do not serve at the whim or direction of the government in power, but rather are independent investigatory and advocacy bodies.  They also described how their professional independence is safeguarded by the fact that they are not subject to recall by any of the branches of government. [See video.]

The weekend ended with a big bang and beautiful tribute. A dazzling celebration of the monumental lifetime achievements of Judge Dickran Tevrizian took place at the magnificent California Club where more than three hundred guests came to honor the pioneering work and regal influence of Judge Tevrizian and to mark and revel in the Association’s thirty years of  excellence and virtue. [See Tevrizian video.]  [See photos.]