Both before and after the adoption of a new law in late 2017 on the prevention of domestic violence and the protection of the victims, the Armenian Bar Association has had years-long and deep-seated commitment to the realization of human and civil rights which, for too long, had been compromised in Armenia. The Bar’s commitment extends to working with women’s groups which entails offering training opportunities for police officers, legal professionals and judges to implement the new law.
In June, 2018, during its Annual Meeting in Artsakh and Armenia, the Armenian Bar collaborated with the Women’s Support Center in Armenia (WSC) and the Glendale Police Department to offer such training. The City of Glendale sponsored Detective Vahe Abramyan, a ten-year veteran of the Glendale Police Department, who since 2011, has served the municipality as a peace officer in the Violent Crimes – Assaults Unit, where he investigates crimes against persons, internet crimes against children, and domestic violence.
A key participant in the domestic violence training program, who offered an insightful and instructive judicial perspective, was Judge Amy Ashvanian of the California Superior Court, County of Los Angeles. Prior to her recent appointment to the bench, Judge Ashvanian was a deputy district attorney in the Hard Core Gang Division of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, where she specialized in the prosecution of extremely violent, criminal street gangs.
The new law on domestic violence did not come without its reported drawbacks. The bill, entitled “Prevention of Domestic Violence, Protection of Domestic Violence Victims and Restoration of Solidarity in the Family” received immediate criticism because the law, instead of being a preventive and protective tool, is more a mechanism for something called “family reconciliation” between abusers and survivors. Women’s rights organizations and domestic violence survivors, who have worked on the passage of the law since 2007, attributed the passage of the bill to the €11m grant made under the European Commission’s Human Rights Budget Support Program to the Armenian government conditioned on the adoption of a stand-alone law on domestic violence.
Domestic violence remains a prevalent problem for Armenian society. “The Armenian Bar Association is committed to continuing its training efforts to bring true realization of the intent of the legislation and to providing real protections to the victims of domestic violence,” added Lucy Varpetian, Vice-Chair of the Armenian Bar Association.
To learn more about the domestic violence programs in Armenia, please email us at Info@ArmenBar.org.
By Malvina Mardirosyan, Esq.
On April 26, 2018, on the occasion of what would have been the 162th birthday of Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr. – one of the greatest supporters of the survival of the Armenian people, the Chapter honored four public servants who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership and years of dedicated service to the community:
• Honorary Robert M. Morgenthau, grandson of Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr. and District Attorney (former), New York County, and Of Counsel, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
• Honorable Claire C. Cecchi, U.S. District Court Judge, District of New Jersey
• Honorable Deborah H. Karalunas, Justice, NYS Supreme Court and President, Association of Justices of the Supreme Court of the State of New York
• Honorable Richard S. Hartunian, United States Attorney (former), Northern District of New York, and Partner,Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP
The magnificent gala dinner was attended by many judges and dignitaries including his Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, his Eminence Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan and Hon. Zohrab Mnatsakanian, then Armenia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, presently the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia. Three generations of the Morgenthau family were in attendance including, Robert Morgenthau, honoree, his son – Bob, and grandson – Harry who is now a member of ArmenBar. The prominence of the event was also marked by attendance from other bar associations’ leadership including Michael Miller, President of New York State Bar Association.
Attendees enjoyed a cocktail hour at the Yale Club terrace overlooking the NYC skyline, followed by awards dinner program at the elegant ballroom. Saro Kerkonian, Chairman of the ArmenBar gave opening remarks, “Tonight, we honor and recognize public servants, that special breed of humanity who often disregard and subordinate personal gain to follow, instead, a career path which advances the greater good, protecting and uplifting the entire community through their public service.”
On acceptance of this year’s award, Mr. Morgenthau gave a poignant speech about the Armenian people and his grandfather’s legacy. Mr. Morgenthau emphasized the Armenian cause by referring to a well-penned letter by him to the editor of the Wall Street Journal entitled “Will Trump Tell the Truth About the Armenian Genocide?” that was published earlier this year.
East Coast Chapter Co-Chairs, Denise Darmanian and Gary Moomjian, remarked, “In the sixteen months of its existence, the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut Chapter of the Armenian Bar Association has been on an amazing ride. This event continues our momentum and the ride will not stop here. Special thanks go to the event planning committee co-chairs Souren Israelyan and John Halebian and the twenty-one active members of the committee. We are enormously grateful and proud of each.”
The event received wide media coverage and was published on Page 2 of the New York Law Journal, April 30, 2018 edition.
REMARKS – DEUKMEJIAN CELEBRATION OF LIFE
JUNE 9, 2018
SENIOR CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST/FAMILY FRIEND
Growing up, there was a very short list of famous Armenian-Americans. We could cite William Saroyan, Ara Parseghian, Mike Connors and a just a few others. But thanks to the Armenian newspapers, another Armenian began achieving prominence – a young legislator named George Deukmejian.
It seemed like a week did not go by that they didn’t prominently feature “the Duke” in one article or another. And for young Armenian political junkies like me, the Duke was a role model. So, 50 years ago, it was easy to recognize him sitting in front of me on a shuttle ride to the Miami Republican Convention Hall, and I walked up and tapped him on the shoulder to introduce myself.
Instead of brushing me off, George introduced me to Gloria and invited me to breakfast with them.
None of that would have taken place without George connecting my heritage to my political interests. It was my first insight into George’s Armenian identity.
George’s parents emigrated to America escaping the genocide committed against the Armenian people by the Ottoman Turks. The better and secure life they found here – with hope and opportunity – gave passion to his first inaugural address as Governor.
I strongly believe that George’s lifelong determination to fight crime and injustice here at home was defined by his heritage – because of the lawlessness, disorder, social chaos and terror that drove our families from their homeland. It’s the belief that civilized society won’t survive if its citizens cannot trust its government to protect them from harm.
So, Duke’s career blossomed with his “tough on crime” positions and thoughtful legislation…while his fellow Armenians played a prominent role along the way.
But George carried far more than his civic duties. With his celebrity status came requests to speak at Armenian charity picnics and dinners, attend church dedications, oversee openings at the Old Folks’ Homes, appear at meetings of youth groups, and serve as Master of Ceremonies at dozens of assorted gatherings of his fellow Armenians. He almost never said, “no.”
Now, like many of us first generation Armenian-Americans, George’s native language skills were not exactly pristine. But, remember, his first name is Courken, not George. So, because of that there were times when he was surrounded by Armenians who were unaware of – let me say…his linguistic challenges. And they would crowd around him chattering away in our native tongue. Finally, George would hold up his hand in protest, and then say – in perfect Armenian – Hyeuhrenees’ Sosecallee Teeshvar Gookah. Which means: “My Armenian language comes exceptionally difficult to me.”
It was a phrase he had memorized, and for a moment, they mistakenly applauded his Armenian language skills as fluent. But then everyone realized George was underscoring his limitations, and had a good laugh and we went back to English. And he was appreciated all the more for his honesty.
Unsurprisingly, each Duke campaign had a strong share of Armenian contributors. But what happened in 1970 speaks a great deal about our friend. His was a very long shot for Attorney General, since he was still a little-known State Senator. Still, countless Armenians came forward to contribute. George lost that race by a wide margin, but he did something I have never known another politician to do. He refunded his leftover campaign funds instead of keeping them for the next election.
George was not consumed by ambition and never really intended to run for Governor. When I broached the subject early in his Attorney General career, he replied that being A.G. was the only job he ever wanted. He only ran because his actions as A.G. were repeatedly blocked by the Governor, the Courts, and the Legislature. And the only way he could change this would be to run for Governor.
Once again, we turned to Armenians to raise a good part of our financing – with a strong role played by our friend, Karl Samuelian. Folks like Jimmy Kayian, the Parnagians and Richard Peters loaned us their airplanes. George took great pride in the way all of them stepped forward, along with the thousands of other loyal supporters
But with three weeks to go, there was an explosion in our campaign when we lost our campaign manager to unforeseen events. George was behind, we had our backs to the wall, and we were short on money.
Karl set up a meeting for us with an elderly Armenian farmer in the San Joaquin Valley. After visiting for an hour, the gentleman talked about the bigoted attacks on his heritage which had deeply wounded him as a young man. And then he quietly handed George a check for $50,000. In today’s media and communications, that would be worth close to a half million dollars, and it was critical to our success.
We barely won that election by just over 1 percent of the vote.
George once observed that the only reason the victory margin was so small was because he managed to keep his charisma under control.
What a great celebration that first inauguration was in the Armenian community! I think we had Shish Kebab at the inaugural ball!
There is an aftermath to the story of that election. I know it may come as a surprise to many of you….but Armenians have a reputation for being thrifty. Greg Kahwajian reminded me about someone coming up to George after he was in office and saying: “Now, let me get this straight…you just spent $8.5 million for a job that pays $48,500 a year……..Are you sure you’re Armenian?”
In 1983, I helped George arrange a visit for several prominent Armenian-American leaders with President Reagan. As I led them into the room, President Reagan practically knocked me over…saying: “Where’s Duke?” George was his favorite governor. But more importantly, that meeting provided a forum to help the President understand the Armenian Genocide. It was done so through the poignant memory of Genocide survivor, Archie Dickranian, who came with us that day.
Now….a couple of anecdotes to share.
One of George’s most prominent traits was speaking his mind. Stu Spencer told me the story that when George first contemplated statewide office, Stu took George to Los Angeles to meet with a political reporter. That particular reporter – a sort of loud mouth and know-it-all – chattered away and lectured George. George listened very politely, thanked him and left. When they got in the car, Stu said: “What do you think.” George looked at him and said: “That guy is nuts!”
Then there were those situations when George was displeased with people. The Armenian word for being naughty is “CHAR.” C-H-A-R. There were many occasions when staff members or legislators crossed the line…or were, in our language, “CHAR.” Like Larry Thomas, Willie Brown, and my brother. And when that happened, George often would not say a word….and then only give them what we famously called: “The Armenian Head Wag.”
George just shook his head back and forth as if to say: “How could you disappoint me like that?” There is more than one person in this room who has received the “Armenian Head Wag. Some might be sitting in the front row today!
As I look out in the audience I see hundreds of you whose careers were literally transformed by George Deukmejian. But he gave you far more than that. He called you to dedicate yourselves – as he said in his First Inaugural Address – “to achieving a Common Sense Society….where principle is not passe, and the qualities of truth, honor, honesty, sacrifice, morality and hard work have meaning and respect.”
And that’s why what we said in the re-election campaign of 1986, will always be his legacy: “Great State. Great Governor.”
GOVERNOR GEORGE DEUKMEJIAN
A CELEBRATION OF LIFE
By Justice Marvin Baxter
June 9, 2018
We join together this afternoon to celebrate the life of Governor George Deukmejian, who was a wonderful person and a great governor. I am delighted to be here with so many other former employees, and long time friends, associates, and supporters of the Governor.
Gloria, thank you for inviting me to speak on the Governor’s contributions to California’s judiciary.
Before doing so, we all thank and commend you for your unbridled support during the Governor’s 28 years of public service, the dignity, class and contributions you made as First Lady of California, and for providing for his care and comfort, especially during his final years of declining health.
I had the honor and privilege to serve as the Governor’s Appointments Secretary for 6 years, from when he took office in 1983 until I joined the Court of Appeal in the fall of 1988. My job was to serve as the Governor’s principal advisor on appointments to the executive and judicial branches of state government.
When I became an appellate justice, my Chief Deputy succeeded me as Appointments Secretary and very ably served for the final two years of the administration. Let me provide a little “Inside Baseball” and explain how that came about. It illustrates just how perceptive the Governor was.
Gaddi Vasquez became my Chief Deputy at the beginning of the second term, but soon left to accept the Governor’s appointment to a vacancy on the Orange County Board of Supervisors. I confided to the Governor that I was having trouble finding the right person to replace Gaddi. After pondering the issue for a few moments, the Governor asked whether Tim Flanigan, my Chief Deputy during the first term, had done a good job. I responded that “Yes, Tim was great.” The Governor looked at me, stroked his chin, and then said, “You know he has a twin brother.” I took it from there. So, that’s the “Inside Edition” of how Terry Flanigan became Chief Deputy and later succeeded me as Appointments Secretary.
George Deukmejian viewed the appointment of judges as a governor’s most important responsibility. He made that crystal clear. When asked in 1982 why he decided to run as an underdog for governor instead of seeking a safe re-election as Attorney General, his answer was short and to the point. “Governors appoint judges – Attorney Generals do not.”
That power and responsibility is especially true in California. California has the largest judicial system in the western world, consisting of approximately 2,000 trial judges, over 100 court of appeal justices, and 7 members of the supreme court. A California governor will make more judicial appointments during any given period of time than will the President of the United States. Governor Deukmejian made over 1,000 judicial appointments during his two terms of office.
The Governor clearly defined his goals and objectives for the judicial appointments process and we made every effort to faithfully implement them.
He filled judicial vacancies in a timely manner, recognizing that the public’s access to justice should not be unreasonably delayed.
He sought to appoint highly qualified “common sense” judges and considered prior judicial and court room experience as very important qualification factors. He favored the consideration of a small group of finalists for any particular vacancy and welcomed evaluations from the State Bar and from a number of other bar associations. He formed his own Judicial Selection Advisory Boards to help recruit and evaluate judicial applicants. In doing so, he received the input of judges, lawyers, law enforcement officials, and community leaders that he knew and respected. He welcomed as much input as possible, good or bad. Simply put, he wanted all the cards on the table before making a judicial appointment.
He recognized the importance of diversity in the courts and the challenge presented with women and minorities grossly underrepresented in the legal profession. He supported implementation of the “So You Want to Become a Judge” program, sponsored by the California Women Lawyers Association, that provided for seminars throughout the State. He encouraged his Appointment Secretaries to participate in the seminars and to encourage more applications from underrepresented groups, so as to enhance his opportunity to make the courts more reflective of the diversity within their communities. I’m proud to say that all administrations have followed the Governor’s lead in supporting this program.
Governor Deukmejian’s record of appointing judges was well received and helped restore the public’s respect for the judicial branch. Consider, for example, the impact of his appointments to the Supreme Court.
During his first term, the Governor appointed two seasoned jurists, Malcolm Lucas and Ed Panelli, to the Supreme Court. After the 1986 confirmation election, he made Malcolm Lucas Chief Justice and elevated court of appeal justices John Arguelles, Marcus Kaufman, and David Eagleson to the high court. Later in his second term, he elevated court of appeal justices Joyce Kennard, Armand Arabian, and me to the Supreme Court.
His influence didn’t stop there. A number of Deukmejian judges were later elevated to the Supreme Court by other governors. Justices Ron George, Ming Chin and Janice Rogers Brown were elevated by Governor Wilson, with Justice George replacing Malcolm Lucas as Chief Justice. Governor Davis elevated Judge Carlos Moreno and Governor Schwarzenegger elevated Justices Carol Corrigan and Tani Cantil-Sakouye, with the latter succeeding Ron George as Chief Justice. As a young lawyer, Tani Cantil served in the legal and legislative units of the administration, prior to her initial judicial appointment by Governor Deukmejian.
Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye and Justices Chin and Corrigan, all initially appointed judges by Governor Deukmejian, are current members of the Supreme Court – some 27 years after the Governor left office. To say that Governor Deukmejian made substantial and positive contributions to our courts is an understatement.
Serving as Governor Deukmejian’s Appointments Secretary was a “Dream Job.” The work was very important and fulfilling and I had an excellent staff. Most importantly, I had a great boss. His personal attributes were outstanding and he earned our highest respect.
We worked hard, but he made it enjoyable to do so. He wasn’t above “ribbing” himself and sometime others, but it was always done in a good natured and heartwarming way. The one closest to home was at my retirement reception in 1988. After complimenting my work as Appointments Secretary, he qualified that by emphasizing that my greatest contribution to the State was moonlighting as his charisma coach.
Governor, we’re going to miss you. May you rest in peace.
It is with profound sadness that we have learned of the passing of one of the supreme patriarchs of the Armenian Diaspora. If one person embodied the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the Armenian people in the wake of the Armenian Genocide, it was Courken George Deukmejian, Jr.
Born in the State of New York in 1929 to parents who hailed from the Western Armenian city of Aintab and who were survivors of our horrific national dispossession, George Deukmejian was a kind, humble, brilliant man of impeccable integrity who devoted his career to public service.
Serving the United States of America in myriad capacities, he was a veteran of the United States Army and the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. A lawyer by education and training, he decided early on to take the high road in profession as in life, sacrificing his own personal gains in the private sector to instead pursue a career dedicated to public service. Deukmejian served as a California State Assemblyman and as a California State Senator who believed in and promulgated a public policy of law and order and fiscal conservatism. He continued his rise in the public sector with his election as California State Attorney General and then became the first governor in the United States of Armenian descent when he was elected Governor of the State of California in 1982.
In the process, at every turn, and at each elevation of stature, he never forgot his Armenian roots. He was present and addressed the audience when the Armenian Genocide Martyrs Monument was dedicated in Montebello, California, the first such monument to be placed on public land. As Governor, he empowered many of his fellow Armenians by appointments to the judiciary, California State commissions and other government positions where Armenians had not had the opportunity to previously serveor where they were under-represented.
In the words of Armenian Bar Chairperson Saro Kerkonian, “With the passing of Governor Deukmejian, we mourn the loss of a man who represented the best of humanity. We are grateful to a man we knew to be loving, caring, humble, yet strong, a man who led an exemplary life as a beloved husband to his wife Gloria, a father and grandfather. In so many ways, he was a man who personified Armenian family values. We grieve the passing of a warrior and a champion of the Armenian Cause.”
Armenian Bar Board member Lucy Varpetian, whom Governor Deukmejian personally mentored while she was a law student, fondly reflected: “As an organization, we had the great honor of welcoming Governor Deukmejian’s participation at multiple Association events over a long span of almost 30 years. And I count myself among the luckiest of aspiring lawyers to have received the gift of wisdom and common sense from this noblest of men. Beyond the many individual lives he touched, so momentous were his contributions to the well-being of the Armenian people as a whole and to our organizational mission that the Armenian Bar Association bestowed upon Governor Deukmejian its highest accolade, Honorary Life Member.”
The members of the Armenian Bar Association will always remember George Deukmejian‘s unwavering moral support, guidance and encouragement from our very inception. His exemplary life of public service will remain a limitless source of inspiration to us all.
At this time of mourning, we find solace in the knowledge that Courken George Deukmejian, Jr. served God and the Armenian Nation and that he is resting with our Lord. His glorious spirit will live on eternally.
Asdvadz Hokeen Loosavoreh
Armenian Bar Association
The Armenian Rights Watch Committee—ARWC is watching. Once again we monitor the movements of peaceful protestors in Yerevan. Once again we are shocked by the conduct of policing authorities.
Our concern is not which political party is at the helm: we are not a political organization. It is the departure from international norms impacting the civil rights of Armenian citizens that concerns us.
It is not reasonable for the Yerevan Police to blindly throw a flash-bang device into a crowd of innocent bystanders and peaceful protestors, absent a strong governmental interest. And, here, there was no government interest at all supporting such an act.
The protestors were nonviolent. They were unarmed. They were not physically menacing. They posed no danger to themselves. They posed no danger to the police. The tactics utilized by the police in Yerevan today bore no reasonable relation to the circumstances and served no public safety purpose.
The promised reforms have not tempered the arbitrary use of force by the Yerevan police. They have not curtailed the human and civil rights violations brought upon Armenian citizens. They have not bolstered any meaningful support for the rights of Armenian citizens to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.
That is unfortunate. The world is watching as our policing authorities attack the fundamental rights of civil society again. And again the Yerevan police demonstrate that they know well how to protect and serve the establishment. We just wish they could bring themselves to protect and serve the citizens instead.
ARMENIAN RIGHTS WATCH COMMITTEE—ARWC;
ARMENIAN BAR ASSOCIATION
One of our giants left us yesterday and, while the Armenian Bar Association mourns his passing, we consider ourselves as doubly-blessed to have cherished California Supreme Court Justice Armand Arabian and, in turn, to have been cherished by him. He was one of a kind.
A founding member and staunch supporter of the Armenian Bar–literally traveling the world for 25 years to participate in and headline our programs–Justice Arabian’s contributions to humanity and to jurisprudence were so vast and exceptional that he is one of only a select few who has been conferred with the highest honor of the Armenian Bar Association, an Honorary Life Member.
Born in New York City, the son of immigrant survivors of the darkest chapter of Armenian history, Justice Arabian remained a fierce advocate for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the quest for restorative justice for the Armenian people. His autobiographical masterpiece, From Gravel to Gavel, captures the triumph of the human spirit over the unimaginable atrocities that his family endured during the Genocide.
At this time, we reflect upon Justice Arabian’s glorious legacy as a decorated United States Army paratrooper, his numerous landmark court decisions upholding the rights of women which led to the passage of reform legislation in all 50 states, his commitment to the advancement of the rule of law in Armenia, and his countless acts of benevolence with his wife, the late and beloved Nancy Arabian. Their compassion, their spirit of giving and serving, touched the lives of so many.
For our members, we are truly fortunate and grateful to have had such an inspirational leader among us. While his loss leaves a great void, we take solace in knowing that he is resting with our Lord and find peace in the teachings of our Christian faith, which he shared, that the spirit of Justice Arabian will live on eternally.
History has demonstrated over time that transformative movements which captivate hearts and move minds often begin with the passion, commitment and sacrifice of a few, and are often symbolized in one emblematic person. Jesus Christ, Julius Caesar, Vartan Mamigonian, Martin Luther, Abraham Lincoln, Khrimian Hayrik, Gomidas, General Antranik, John F. Kennedy, and Mikayel Gorbachev come to mind. For the Armenian Bar Association, that exemplary model of inspiration is our founder, Raffi K. Hovannisian who, nearly thirty years ago, had his eyes on the sunrise in the horizon ahead. What emerged is our shared Armenian Bar landscape of an evergreen and perennially blooming
organization with wonderfully-devoted members in cities, states, and countries all over the globe.
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