Category: Press Releases

05 Dec 2017

Message from the Chair

The Հայ Կամաւոր, the “Armenian volunteer,” is a figure rightfully revered through the annals of Armenian history and celebrated in our national songs and literature.

Whether on the plains of Avarayr, the shores of Lake Van, the juggernaut of Sardarabad or the cliffs of Shushi, the indelible spirit of the Armenian volunteer has been one of true service—service not for the sake of being liked, rewarded or acknowledged but an unshakable commitment to the idea that our people’s way of life, our culture, our faith and our right to live together as a community on our ancestral lands is a fundamental right worth risking life and treasure, even against seemingly insurmountable odds.

It is this spirit of the Armenian volunteer that propels members of the Armenian Bar Association from every segment of Armenian community and life to carry out the good work of Armenian Bar.  Whether it is providing scholarships to worthy students who have demonstrated service to the community or the establishment of a pro bono legal clinic in Stepanakert or our singular voice advocating for basic due process of an accused in Armenia, the work of the Armenian Bar Association is accomplished by nothing less than the committed, tireless efforts of our volunteer attorneys, professors, judges and law students.  These are volunteers who fiercely believe in defending the rights of Armenians everywhere and in taking those meaningful steps that will assist Armenia and Artsakh in developing a civil society governed by the rule of law in order to enhance the strength of our nation and people.

In fact, it is this very spirit that draws the Armenian Bar Association to Armenia and to Artsakh this May 2018.  There, we will gather to remember and celebrate, with our brothers and sisters, the victories and heroism of the Armenian Volunteer, at an Annual Meeting that promises to again imprint the work of this Association into the history of our people.

To be clear, it is this volunteer spirit that has been building tremendous momentum for our organization in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut region where our members are holding joint events with sister Armenian organizations such as the Armenians In Banking and Finance.  It is this volunteer spirit that has motivated our organization to create a Young Lawyers Committee dedicated to serving the needs of the hundreds of young Armenian members of the bar across the nation so that they, too, can thrive and professionally develop and, in turn, leverage their own knowledge and expertise to serve the needs of our community for decades to come.

And it is this Armenian volunteer spirit that enabled our members to assemble with over 50 members of the California judiciary at a sold-out Annual Judges’ Night event in Glendale, California to honor Judge Victor Chavez, Judge Huey Cotton and Judge Holly Fujie for their commitment to advancing the cause of inclusion, diversity and the independence of the California and Federal Judiciary.

Our work—actually, the inspiring work of our members on behalf of our Armenian Bar Association—is sheer inspiration and purpose.  We acknowledge and hold in the highest regard the very fact that, in pursuit of its defense of the rights of the Armenian people and the Armenian Cause, time and again, it is the Armenian volunteer who has risen to the challenge.  The Armenian Bar Member is indeed a true Hye Gamavor.

And the value of our work is literally sewn into the fabric of our people’s history.  The flags of two of the largest, historic Armenian political parties brandish not only the sword—but also the pen.  We, the members of the Armenian Bar Association, recognize the importance of that pen and, since our very founding, have toiled proudly and commitedly to writing the story of justice, of fairness and of rights into the hearts, minds and future of the Armenian people.  With pen in hand, and our return to the Homeland on our horizon, we stand unwaveringly united with the Armenian people—and we push forward.

We push forward with the continued commitment that—with all of our collective strength and without rest—we will volunteer the service of our legal expertise, our assembled resources and the unrelenting spirit of our unbreakable Armenian Gamavor to the pursuit of the Armenian Cause, to the security of the Armenian people and, of course, to the promise of justice that is the very root of our Armenian story.

05 Dec 2017

Armenian Bar Starts Thanksgiving Week Early with Spectacular Judges’ Night Gala

On November 16, 2017, members and friends of the Armenian Bar Association gathered at the landmark Glen Arden Club in Glendale, California to celebrate and honor the best of California’s judiciary during the Annual Judges’ Night Dinner.  Nearly 50 judges of the state and federal court systems turned out to rejoice as three prominent jurists of the Los Angeles Superior Court were honored—Judges Victor Chavez, Holly Fujie and Huey Cotton.

The Annual Judges’ Night has fast become the Association’s signature celebration, drawing hundreds of attendees from all walks of the legal profession in the most convivial and interactive of atmospheres.  The Association honors those jurists who have distinguished themselves beyond the laudable lines of high intellect, efficiency and consistency.  The Armenian Bar 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.

“We are fortunate to have so many distinguished members of the California judiciary join us this evening.  We thank them for their devoted public service,” said Mistress of Ceremonies, Vanna Kitsinian, member of the Executive Board of Governors of the Armenian Bar Association.

The evening began with a high-octane reception where guests networked and socialized before advancing into the grand ballroom for dinner and presentation of the awards. There, solo artist Toukhman Khachatourian began the program with a stirring rendition of the national anthems of the United States of America and Armenia. Next, Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate of the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America, delivered an inspiring invocation and asked for the Lord’s  blessings to confer on the judges the strength and wisdom to carry on their good work.  The Archbishop’s invocation was followed by a dinner of delicious Armenian cuisine.

Chairman of the Board, Saro Kerkonian, assumed the podium amidst great fanfare and thanked the honorary guests and their fellow judges for their outstanding contributions in furtherance of the independence of the judicial branch of government. Mr.  Kerkonian paid eloquent homage to the judges’ professional examples of instilling in the public the trust that California’s courts are bastions where the rule of law reigns supreme.  With flags of country, state and organization adorning the stage in the background, he offered reflections into the work of the Association as it relates to the United States, Armenia, the Artsakh Republic and the State of California.

Board member and Association Treasurer Gerard Kassabian introduced the first honoree, Judge Victor Chavez.  Mr. Kassabian greeted the guests with a “hello and welcome” in ten different languages and spoke of the 30-year career of Judge Chavez on the bench.  In a moving tribute, Mr. Kassabian endearingly Armenianized Judge Chavez’s name by adding an “ian” to the end and presented him with a beautiful photograph of the honoree, daughter California Appellate Justice Victoria Chavez and Governor George Deukmejian, on the occasion of Judge Chavez’s swearing-in to the bench by his daughter.  Judge Chavez fondly recalled as a child how his mother read to him the famed book by Franz Werfel, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, recalling the heroic self-defense of the Armenians during the Armenian Genocide.  He explained how the book left a lasting impression on his life.

The next honoree was former California State Bar President, Judge Holly Fujie.  Judge Fujie was introduced by Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Amy Ashvanian.  Ms. Ashvanian shared with the audience the tremendous career Judge Fujie has had and the countless bar activities she has initiated and led.  Judge Fujie congratulated the Armenian Bar Association on its work in the field of mentorship and judicial evaluations.  She urged collaboration between the Armenian Bar and the California State Bar with respect to their respective mentorship programs.

The third honoree of the evening was Supervising Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court, Northwest District, Judge Huey Cotton.  He was introduced by noted criminal defense attorney and member of the Armenian Bar’s Judicial Evaluations Committee, Alexandra Kazarian.  Ms. Kazarian praised the evening’s final honoree for his leadership on the bench, his activism and his compassion for litigants and young and learning lawyers.  Judge Cotton passionately told inspiring stories of Armenians in his life and courtroom.

Judges Chavez, Fujie and Cotton were each presented with a beautiful work of classical art prepared by renowned artist Seroon Yeretsian, each with an original inscription of praise and honor.  The program concluded with a moving benediction by Reverend Father Vazken Movsesian of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of America.

Following the official program, many stayed on and maintained the high-energy levels that lasted throughout the night.  Valerie Dean, co-chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the San Fernando Valley Bar Association, called the evening “One of the best, diverse, Judges’ Nights I have ever been to.”

“We are thrilled we could once again showcase the great talent, intellect and diversity that is the strength of the California Judicial System at our annual Judges’ Night,” said the the Association’s Judicial Evaluations Committee Co-Chair Lucy Varpetian.  “We look forward to continuing this tradition for years to come,” said Garo Ghazarian, organizing committee chair and former two-term chairman of the Armenian Bar Association.

Judges’ Night 2017

30 Nov 2017

Washington, D.C. Midyear Meeting A Success

Historic Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C., was the setting as members and guests of the Armenian Bar Association gathered for its 2017 Mid-Year meeting. The event featured an outstanding blend of keynote speakers, continuing legal education by top scholars in the field of reparations law and social justice and fun-filled professional development and networking opportunities.

“We were thrilled to see such a great turnout of members and guests to the conference that far exceeded our expectations,” said Armen Hovannisian, three-term chairman and lead organizer of the weekend’s events.

The festivities began on Friday, October 13, as the Board of Governors held their Mid-Year meeting. Several important matters were disussed including the adoption of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Armenian Bar Association, Artsakh University and Yerevan State University to establish an Armenian Bar Association legal clinic in Stepanagerd. In addition, the Board discussed the implementation of the newly-created Young Lawyers Committee for lawyers under 5 years of practice or 40 years of age. Furthermore, the board members unanimously approved that the 2018 Annual Meeting shall be held in Yerevan and Stepanagerd in conjunction with the celebrations taking place in Armenia and Artsakh to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the independence of the First Republic of Armenia in 1918.

“The board of governor members are excited to embark on these important initiatives for Armenia and Artsakh in pursuit of our organizational mjssion as well as support the legal careers of our young lawyer members which are a vital part of our organization, said Garo Ghazarian, two-term chairman and co-chairman of the Armenian Rights Watch Committee.

On Friday evening, members gathered at The Marvin, an iconic restaurant in the heart of Washington where the young Marvin Gaye, the gifted American singer often performed early in his career. Members were welcomed by organizing committee member Jacob Bournazian and Chairman Saro Kerkonian and everyone enjoyed a scrscrumptious dinner together.

On Saturday, October 14, the conference continued at the hallowed halls of Howard University School of Law, where US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall received his legal education. The conference featured an address by Richard Hartunian, the immediate past United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York. Mr. Hartunian, a third generation Armenian-American from Albany, New York and current partner at Manatt Phelps presented the audience with some intriguing insight into his experience at the US Attorney’s office.

Mr. Hartunian’s speech was followed by a panel on social and restorative justice moderated by Armenian Rights Watch Committee co-chair, Karnig Kerkonian. Mr. Kerkonian assembled a phenomenal panel which brought together Professor Darin Johnson of Howard University School of Law and attorney Dan Lewerenz, counsel at the Native American Rights Fund and former attorney at the Department of the Interior.

Mr. Kerkonian, who holds a post-doctoral diploma in international law from Cambridge University decisively set the tone for the panel by describing the trauma that consumes the Armenian nation following the Genocide and how reparations is a necessary pursuit to achieve social justice for the immense wrongs wrought upon the Armenians.

Professor Johnson presented a comprehensive analysis of the concept of restorative justice in the context of the African-American experience during and following slavery and drew relevant parallells to the crimes against humanity endured by the Armenians during the Armenian Genocide. He also provided guests with an eye-opening review of some of the significant cases iinvolving the quest for reparations for the wrongs suffered by African-Americans with the hope that these cases could provide examples that could be used in Armenian genocide related cases.

Mr. Johnson’s presentation was followed by an equally thought-provoking presentation by Dan Lewerenz, who drew on his experience in the field of the legal rights of native Americans. Mr. Lewerenz desribed various treaties which concern native Americans and some of the successes native Americans have achieved in courts of Law and through negotiations in the political process.

Both panelists fielded several questions from the guests at the conclusion of the presentation.

“It was a tremendous privilege to have Professor Johnson and Mr. Lewerenz grace our stage. Their scholarship and extensive experience as litigators in reparation cases provided valuable information which we intend to invoke as we seek to recover for the tremendous losses suffered during the Armenian Genocide,” said Mr. Kerkonian following the lecture.


Following the panel, guests were treated to two very special keynote speakers, His Excellency and Ambassador Plenipotentiary for the Republic of Armenia to the United States Grigor Hovhannissian and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Artsakh to the United States of America, Robert Avetisyan.

Ambassador Hovhannissian was introduced by Armenian Bar Association Tresurer, Gerard Kassabian who fondly recalled witnessing the Ambassador receiving his certification in Havana, Cuba when he became Ambassador to that nation as well as Mexico and several Central American countries. He also beautifully described Ambassador Hovhannissian’s diplomatic service as Consul General in Los Angeles, where the largest diasporan community of Armenians resides.

Ambassador Hovhannissian’s remarks were highlighted by a review of the present status in relations between the United States and Armenia. He mentioned that the relationship has now transitioned “from that of aid to one of trade.” In this regard, Ambassador Hovhannisaian explained that trade and economic treaties will be negotiated and invited the Armenian Bar Association to offer the expertise of its members to participate in the drafting of these treaties. Ambassador Hovhannissian also acknowledged the work of the Armenian Rights Watch Committee in issuing constructively critical statements on current issues facing the Republic. He said this is far more preferable to the alternative of staying silent.

Following Ambassador Hovhannisian’s remarks, Armenian Rights Watch Committee Co-Chair and two-term Chairman, Garo Ghazarian, introduced Permanent Representative Avetisyan. Mr. Ghazarian eloquently informed the audience of the great importance of Artsakh. He stated “Artsakh is to Hayastan and us, what Hayastan is to the Diaspora.” Mr. Ghazarian then described how Artsakh is a critical aspect of the Armenian Bar Association’s mission. He pronounced the decision of the board to adopt the memorandum of understanding to establish an Armenian Bar Association Legal Clinic in Stepanagerd. He praised Mr.Avetisyan for his devoted public service to the people of Artsakh and righteously called on everyone to no longer address Represetative Avetisyan as Permanent Representative, but rather as Ambassador.

Ambassador Avetisyan gave an outstanding and concise review of the history of Artsakh from ancient to modern times showing how the region has been nearly exclusively populated and governed by indigenous Armenians for millenia. He described the importance of Artsakh statehood being recognized in the international community and offered a persuasive legal analysis how that statehood exists for Artsakh under international law. He stressed that maintaining security is the top priority of the Artsakh government and that the Artsakh Army is strong.

“It was a great honor having the two esteemed diplomats of Armenia and Artsakh participate in our conference. We look forward to continuing our dialogue and work with Armenia and Artsakh,” said Garo Ghazarian, following the luncheon.

Immediately following the luncheon, guests were invited to a private screening of the critically-acclaimed doxumentary, Architects of Denial. With the permission of executive producer and fellow Armenian, David McKenzie, Garo Ghazarian introduced the film by reading a moving letter written by survivor of the Armenian Genocide to the grandchildren he had not met yet, one of whom, Armenian Bar member Meline Mkertchian, was in attendance at the conference. Mr. Ghazarian also introduced attorney Levon Grigorian from Spain. Mr. Grigorian is a survivor of the Baku pogroms against the Armenians in 1991. He gave a moving statement urging that the Genocide is not over, but that it is continuing through acts of aggression against Artsakh and the pograms in Sumgait and Baku.

The film Architects of Denial is a compelling documentary tying the Armenian Genocide and it’s denial to other modern acts of Genocide, from the Holocaust to Darfur, and persuasively showing how genocide denied is genocide continued. The film also links the Genocide of 1915 to the current conflict and human rights abuses in Artsakh.

The weekend was topped with a celebration of the 2999th anniversary of the City of Yerevan/Erebuni at the Armenian Embassy hosted by Ambassador Hovhannissian and the gracious Embassy staff.

“We were absolutely thrilled at the success of our Mid-Year Meeting” said Student Affairs Committee Chairwoman Lucy Varpetian. “It has inspired us to accomplish more than ever before in pursuit of the Armenian Cause and the protection of the civil and human rights of Armenians everywhere.”


Midyear Meeting 2017: Washington, D.C.

30 Nov 2017

ArmenBar Launches Pro Bono Clinic in Artsakh

On November 1, 2017, in the capital city of Stepanagert in the Artsakh Republic, the Armenian Bar Association in conjunction with Yerevan State University (YSU) and Artsakh State University (ArSU), teamed together to open the first of its kind, pro-bono legal clinic.

The establishment of the clinic came about through a memorandum of understanding developed by two-term Armenian Bar Chairman, Garo Ghazarian, Artsakh Human Rights Defender, Ombudsman, and Armenian Bar Association member, Ruben Melikyan, and representatives of YSU and ArSU, during Mr. Ghazarian’s recent trip to Artsakh in July of 2017.

“This pro-bono legal clinic brings much needed legal services to an underserved segment of Artsakh society.  We are thrilled that the Armenian Bar Association is a partner in this unique endeavor which seeks to better the lives of Artsakh citizens by promoting access to justice,” said Mr. Ghazarian in an interview following the grand opening of the event.

The clinic will primarily assist participants with legal questions in the field of administrative law, providing citizens with information to navigate through government, such as licensing, permits and regulatory compliance.   At its Mid-Year meeting in Washington, D.C., the Armenian Bar Association, upon the motion of Mr. Ghazarian, unanimously decided to approve both the provision of technical expertise as well as provide the monetary funds necessary  for the legal office to run efficiently.

At the ceremony celebrating the grand opening of the clinic,  Mr. Melikyan emphasized that, “This pro-bono clinic brings a constructive benefit to the citizens of Artsakh as well as providing an environment where Armenian law students and young lawyers can provide a vital public service to the community.”  The Armenian Bar Association will also be funding a six week internship program for Armenian law students from the United States to serve at the clinic in Artsakh.  “The pro-bono Legal Clinic and the Internship Program will be a win-win for all those involved, the citizen-participants, the law students and lawyers,” stated Lucy Varpetian, the Bar Association’s Chair of Student Affairs Committee.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to continue to be of service to our brothers and sisters in the Republic of Artsakh,” stated Saro Kerkonian, Chairman of the Armenian Bar Association.

“The Armenian Bar Association will continue to strive to take every necessary step to defend the right of self-determination of the Armenians of Artsakh fulfilling the promise of a free and independent Armenian Nation.  Building a stronger Artsakh is a critical step towards realizing that sacred promise.  It is our duty to our forefathers and to future generations of Armenians,” concluded Armen Hovannisian, founding member and three-term Chairman of the Armenian Bar Association.

27 Oct 2017

Women Leaders Of The Armenian Bar Board of Governors Support Domestic Violence Bill In Armenia

In 1915, the generation of our great-grandmothers was taken against their will as young girls, forcibly becoming child brides and sexual chattel of the enemy men.   So began the girls’ lifetimes of battery and bondage at the whim of the dirty hands and wanton bodies of the shameless perpetrator.  And now, in 2017, in our own homeland, a most disconcerting discussion is taking place in the context of the Republic of Armenia’s consideration of long-overdue legislation which would penalize the crime of domestic violence.  This is not the first time that the Armenian Bar Association has stood up for the rights and dignity of the women and girls of Armenia.[]

In a twisted tangle of logic, public opposition to the proposed bill is bubbling up from a not-insignificant number of vocal female apologists who have derided the legislative initiative as a threat to traditional Armenian family values and as an attack on the cohesiveness of the time-honored family unit. They claim that the ruinous wrongs of their offending men should be relativized because prosecuting them would lead to the displacement of their children from the family hearth. They say that we should stay out of their business and keep our opinions to ourselves.

We say voch to the perpetuation of the vicious dehumanization of the Armenian woman, especially when the monstrous brutality is inflicted by members of the same family–father on daughter, husband on wife, uncle on niece.  Simply put, get off of our mothers, get off of our sisters, and get off of our daughters.  Enough is enough.

It is that we hold our families in the highest regard that the Armenian woman sacrificed and sometimes survived the death marches into the desert during the Genocide.  It is that we hold our families in the highest regard that we found temporary shelter in Europe and the Middle East only to repatriate to our homeland after World War II in order to instill and uplift our nation’s values.  It is in that same regard for family that we will not stand idly by and allow our children to learn violence from their fathers, or to live in an environment where beatings of their mothers are commonplace.

There is no room for criminal violence in an Armenian household—or any household– and, for this, we rise with our sisters, here, in Hayastan, and everywhere to demand that the National Assembly adopt legislation that protects the safety and security of the Armenian family.

24 Oct 2017

Gayane Khechoomian Appointed as Director of Operations

LOS ANGELES, CA – With great up-side implications, the Armenian Bar Association has announced the appointment of Los Angeles-based-attorney Gayane Khechoomian as its new Director of Operations. Gayane will occupy and build out the ground floor of the Association’s day-to-day administrative functions, lending support and spirit to the various standing committees in order to facilitate organizational activities and community events.

Chairman of the Board, Saro Kerkonian, offered the following observation about the recent appointment:  “Gayane comes to us fully-conscious of the critical issues facing our community, fully-committed to enhancing the relationships among our members and drawing in new ones, fully-devoted to endowing the Association’s future with passion and purpose, and fully-equipped with the tools to make all of that happen.”


The Director of Operations will tap into the multiple, positive platforms of the Armenian Bar Association, working closely with the Board of Governors and the nearly-dozen committees led by the nationwide membership’s attorneys and students. Each and every year for nearly 30 years, the organization has hosted a continuing series of timely and interesting programs as part of its advocacy of issues which stand at the crux of the Armenian cause.   Importantly, the Association fosters the exchange of ideas and communications among attorneys, judges and law students in different stages of their careers, in different parts of the world, including the Diaspora and the Republics of Armenia and Artsakh.


Gayane will assume the directorial role while continuing to serve as a volunteer coach in the Armenian Bar Association’s Mock Trial Program, which partners with Armenian secondary schools in the Los Angeles County area in a broad inter-scholastic moot court competition under the auspices of the Constitutional Rights Foundation. She has held the role of President of her alma mater’s Armenian Law Students Association and has chaired numerous non-profit organizations during her law school and undergraduate studies. 


“I am deeply honored for the opportunity to work with the Armenian legal community and look forward to serve the Armenian Bar Association in fulfilling our mission,” remarked Gayane, who graduated from Loyola Law School in 2013 with a concentration in international law.


Before joining the Armenian Bar Association, Gayane clerked at the United Nations criminal tribunal prosecuting genocide and crimes against humanity in Cambodia and working on an international case filed in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. She has a background in civil litigation and experience working with start-ups and small businesses.  Prior to her legal career, Gayane worked as editor of Yerevan Magazine, and founded the student-run publication, Armenian Chronicles, based out of UCLA, where she also obtained her bachelor’s degree in History and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures.

24 Oct 2017

Message from the Chair – October, 2017

You may not know the name Tigran Berakchyan.  Neither did I, until I had to, until I wanted to, until I was crushed and devastated. Carrying the name of the “King of Kings” and bearing the distinguishing crest of the “yan,” you would be correct in recognizing that Tigran’s roots hail firmly from that tribe whom the great poet Barouyr Sevag profoundly asserted, “We are few, but they call us Armenian.”

You may not know who Tigran Berakchyan is, but he is at the heart of why the members of the Armenian Bar Association work passionately to achieve its mission.

Born in 1997, 19 year-old Tigran, was the older of two sons from the Arabkir neighborhood of Yerevan. Known for his patriotism, his brother, Vahram, remembers that Tigran insisted that he report to his compulsory and much-needed military service in Artsakh, on the front lines protecting the frontier from enemy incursions, and nowhere else.  In April, 2016, Tigran was one of dozens of native sons who lost their lives in deadly-hot battles near Jabrail (Jrakan).  He went so that others could live, so that others could prosper, so that others could have futures and children of their own.

It is with Tigran’s courage in mind that three years ago, the Armenian Bar Association decided at its Mid-Year Meeting in Miami to amend its by-laws to state that a fundamental purpose of our organization is to assist Artsakh in obtaining official recognition of its statehood under international law.

It is with Tigran’s belief that the Armenians of Artsakh have the right to determine their own destiny that at its recent Mid-Year Meeting in Washington, D.C., the Board of Governors unanimously decided:

  1. to enter a Memorandum of Understanding with Artsakh State University and Yerevan State University to establish and underwrite the expenses for a free legal clinic for the citizens of Artsakh;
  2. to establish a summer internship program at the Office of the Artsakh Ombudsman in which Armenian-American law students would help in the development, education, and protection of human rights in Artsakh; and
  3. to convene its next Annual Meeting in May 2018 in Artsakh and Armenia to further the work of our organization on the ground and to recognize and honor—in person—the 100th anniversary of the First Republic of Armenia.

In Washington, we also welcomed another warrior for the cause, Robert Avetisyan, our Artsakh Ambassador to the United States of America, received updates about the tenuous, yet promising situation in Artsakh, and renewed our pledge of allegiance to the people of Artsakh and their quest for peace and stability.

It is in recognition of Tigran’s supreme sacrifice at the tender age of 19 that the Armenian Bar Association understands that the future of our people is in the hands of our youth.  For this reason, we have formally adopted the National Armenian Law Students Association as a part of our organization, with its leader having a seat at the table of our board of governors.  It is why so many of our programs are directed towards advancing the legal education of our students and their career development, whether through successful events like our signature Mentorship Program reception, the award of student scholarships, our Artsakh internship program, or the judicial clerkship conference and so much more.

The heroic Central California-born freedom fighter, Commander Monte Melkonian, once said, “If we lose Karabakh, we turn the final page in our people’s history.”  Tigran Berakchyan understood intrinsically the heavy weight and full meaning of Monte’s admonition.  Tigran was truly proud to serve in the Armenian Army, and he refused to change into civilian clothing when he would return home from Artsakh on leave.  Ultimately, Tigran gave his most precious possession—his own life–in defense of the Armenian Cause.

In recognition of the valor of Tigran and all of his colleagues who fiercely and fearlessly defend the rights of the Armenian people and nation, the Armenian Bar Association will spare no effort to continue to pursue our mission to vigorously advocate in defense of the dignity of the Armenian people, anywhere and everywhere we are.

22 Oct 2017

World Champion Melsik Baghdasaryan Embraces The Armenian Bar On Championship Tour

World-renowned kickboxing prize-fighter, Melsik Baghadasaryan, had two things on his mind at the K-1 World Grand Prix…victory and dignity.  He achieved both. And he also had something truly special emblazoned on the front of his trunks…the Armenian Bar Association’s iconic logo featuring paired cranes and twinned peaks of Ararat.  With every roundhouse kick and with each knee strike, the Armenian Bar’s crest was caught in the glow of Melsik’s athletic virtuosity. (video excerpt of fight) 

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The Armenian Bar Association made its way to Tokyo in September in a show of support for the young phenom, known as “The Gun,” who has fast become a sentimental favorite of many Armenian Bar members.  Recognized and adored the world over, Melsik has lent his presence to the Armenian Bar’s diverse initiatives, including traveling to Yerevan this past spring with the organization’s Parliamentary Elections Monitoring team.

Leading up to the all-day competition on September 18, 2017, the 25-year-old super star was pegged as the front-runner to come out on top at one of the fighting world’s biggest events – the K-1 World Grand Prix–which was staged at the Saitama Super Arena in front of thousands of roaring fans and followers.

The Armenian Bar delegation was headed and inspired by Mesrop Khoudagoulian and was rounded out by Lucy Varpetian, Karnig Kerkonian, Gayane Khechoomian, and Armen Hovannisian.

“In Melsik, we see and feel our people’s heartbeat and its pulse, our heroic past and our promising future.  On a personal note, as a mother of a three-year old boy, I also see in Melsik the type of man that I hope my son, Vahan,  will grow up to be: humble and strong, knowing and learning, devoted and appreciative,” said Varpetian.

With this trip to the Orient, the Armenian Bar’s Dignity Mission brand of devotion was launched, first with the delegation’s incense and prayer-filled tribute at the gravesite of the late Honorable Diana Apcar who was the Republic of Armenia’s Ambassador to Japan between 1918 and 1920.  The Dignity Mission then pivoted to shore up the courage, patriotism and daring of its representative in the ring. 

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“The juxtaposition of being in Japan to honor the late Diana Apcar – a pioneering foreign dignitary and humanitarian – and also to cheer our kickboxing champion, Melsik Baghdasaryan, is a testament to the Armenians’ longevity and impression on the world stage. It was a very special mission and one that I hope we replicate in other parts of the world where Armenians have left a mark,” remarked Gayane Khechoomian.

Baghdasaryan, the WLF World Champion, impressed Japanese fans by putting on an absolutely dominant display against his first-round opponent, Yamagiwa Kazuki – earning him a unanimous decision victory from the judges.

“It was an honor to come to Japan wearing the Armenian Bar Association’s logo with its beautiful image of Mt. Ararat,” said Baghdasaryan. “I spent most my life in Armenia, so seeing the Armenian Bar work to make the country a better place helps remind me why I fight too.”

But Japanese fans were not the only ones impressed.  The entire Armenian Bar contingent could be seen springing from their ringside seats and cheering with words of encouragement to the daring young man at center stage.

“In our native Armenian tongue, like Julius Caesar long before him, ‘Yegav, desav, direts.’ Yes indeed, Melsik came, he saw, and he conquered,” said Armen Hovannisian. “You just can’t take your eyes off this kid!  He is mesmerizing with his every bob, his every weave, his every strike, and his every blow.”

As the packed arena prepared to watch the Armenian in successive bouts, the crowd was stunned when announcers revealed that Baghdasaryan, after his initial victory, had not received medical clearance to continue due to injury. A nerve had been aggravated in his shoulder, rendering the south-paw incapable of raising his left arm.

“I will always hold my head high as well as the tri-color of our homeland. While it was disappointing for me because not only did my coaches and I know, but even the Japanese fans knew, that I would win the belt, I will heal and be back next year for what’s mine, for what’s ours,” said Baghdasaryan.

The rising star later came out to the stands, and after taking pictures and shaking hands with hundreds of fans, Melsik found the proud faces of friends and compatriots.

“It was a great honor and help to have my friends from the Armenian Bar there,” said Baghdasaryan. “As long as I’m fighting, I will always keep that logo and our flag flying high.”

“Melsik’s climb to the top was paved with his God-given gifts, earned with unrelenting training, and yes, inspired by the blood and marrow of the Armenian Nation,” exclaimed Mesrop Khoudagoulian.

Karnig Kerkonian crystallized the essence of the Tokyo leg of the Armenian Bar’s first Dignity Mission, “The Armenian Bar is beholden to the great figures of our past and present, the combination of whom led to the launch of our Association’s Dignity Mission initiative. This time, it was to Tokyo to kneel together at the grave of Ambassador Apcar and to stand as one in the long shadow of Melsik. Next, it will be a pilgrimage to Jerusalem where we will tend to our forlorn cemeteries and to our living communities.”


16 Oct 2017

Meeting Armenians in Armenia

By Collins T. Fitzpatrick,
Circuit Executive
U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit


I am indebted to the Armenian Bar Association and Federal Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan for making my trip to Yerevan possible.  I had a two day scheduled meeting of a nongovernmental organization  in Prague so I thought that while I was in “the neighborhood,” I would see if there was interest in having me speak to Armenian lawyers and judges as I have done in other foreign countries as well as in America.

Judge Der-Yeghiayan arranged for me to be hosted by Armine and Raffi Hovannisian who were wonderful hosts.  Armine picked me up at the airport at 1 a.m. and we sat around the kitchen with Raffi  until 3 in the morning having a wonderful conversation.  I mention them as they are not only both American lawyers, but Raffi was the first President of the Armenian Bar Association and the first foreign minister of Armenia.   I was only in Armenia for two days, but I got to see and do a lot. On the first day I had a lengthy conversation with Minister of Justice Davit Harutyunyan and several members of his staff about the backlog of cases in the courts and the problems of corruption.  I mentioned that corruption is in many countries and I pointed out that In Chicago, we had about 30 state judges as well as lawyers and court officials who were convicted of corruption.   I gave some ideas on how to deal with backlog and pointed out that the most effective way to deal with case backlog is to take the time to investigate applicants before appointing them to the bench. I subsequently forwarded to them materials which we utilize in selecting judges and considering their reappointment.  I also provided the name of a federal judge who has vast experience as a state and federal trial judge and who is willing to travel to Armenia to help them.

The following day I spoke to about 40 soon to be judges and prosecutors at the Academy of Justice.  I spoke on the need for judges and prosecutors to be independent in making decisions, how you foster that independence, and how you preserve that independence. We talked about the importance of ruling on the basis of the law and the evidence. They wondered about what a judge should do when the lawful decision favored only one person as opposed to the 1500 on the other side.  I explained that judges needed to follow the law. I gave as an example a recent decision by a Chicago federal judge that went against the municipal authorities and a large and influential part of the establishment to stop construction of a museum on land that was dedicated to being open park space.  I mentioned that there may come a time when they as judges and prosecutors need to not enforce a law that is unjust. I gave as an example the Nazi laws discriminating against Jews. I said judges and prosecutors need to be willing to resign if the law is unjust. I mentioned that I have friends who are Turkish prosecutors and judges who have been jailed for being independent. From the questions that I received, I connected with the audience even though I was using a translator.

It was not all work as Armine took me to see the first century temple at Garni and the monastery at Geghard with its 12th century chapel.  I also visited the Cascades, an outstanding modern art museum with outside fountain galleries.  Armine also showed me around Orran which she established to provide homeless and other poor children a place to come after school and for poor seniors to get a hot meal.  Orran has expanded and now has two locations.  Armine took me on a walking tour from the Ministry of Justice through Republic Square to the Opera House where her husband Raffi had a 15 day hunger strike to protest government corruption. That first evening we went to the Ararat Golf Club (the first golf course in Armenia) for dinner with “another couple.”   It was an Armenian version of the Gospel story of the loaves and fishes as the couple expanded to about 30 persons for a wonderful dinner. It was much like our American Thanksgiving with family and friends and lots of food, drink, music, singing, and wonderful toasts.

The next day I went to the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin where I visited Mayr Tachar, the main cathedral, and the newest church, Holy Archangels, and the beautiful grounds. After that we went to the Armenian Genocide Memorial and Museum, a very sobering and reflective place, much like our Holocaust Museum in Washington.  I am not the first person to think that if the world knew more about the Armenian genocide when it happened, maybe more persons would have resisted the Nazi genocide.  The lawyer came out in me when I suggested to Armine and Raffi that the museum should post some of the original Turkish government documents trying to justify the Armenian removal and the eyewitness accounts of third party observers of the atrocities committed on the Armenian people.  Having seen the movie The Promise (which I highly recommend) was helpful in following the detailed presentation in the Museum.

That night, again thanks to my hosts, I was invited to the Independence Day Party at the American Embassy.  Armine and Raffi seem to know everyone from high level government officials to the wait staff.  They introduced me to the Director of the Genocide Museum and his wife who designed it.  So it was an opportunity for me to go right to the top with my suggestions for the museum.

I also took the occasion to talk to Deborah Grieser, the Director of the Agency for International Development at the American Embassy, to tell her about my conversation with Minister of Justice Davit Harutyunyan and his interest in getting help to analyze and offer solutions to the growing backlog problem in the courts as well as the issues of corruption.

After the band’s last song, and the fireworks, I thought that we were headed back to the Hovannisians’ home as Raffi and I had 4:30 am flights.  They had a better plan to join others at Dolmama Restaurant for desserts and more wine toasting with friends and new acquaintances who happened to be in the restaurant. Back to the house at 1, quick packing, and a 20 minute nap before Raffi and I leave for the airport at 2 a.m.

Many people there and here have asked me what I liked best from my quick trip to Armenia.  The answer is easy; it is the people. We all know people who served in the Peace Corps, Jesuit Volunteer Corps, Teach for America or similar programs.  We have had older children who went on service projects for two week periods here or abroad. But it all pales in comparison to the Hovannisians who went to Armenia when Armenia got its independence more than 25 years ago with Armine helping the poor and Raffi trying to bring integrity to the Armenian government.  They have given up much to help others and it was a privilege to get to know them and the other Armenians whom I met.

Attached photo is of Armine and Raffi Hovanisian with Ambassador Richard Mills, Jr. and Collins T. Fitzpatrick.