Category: Uncategorized

03 Feb 2018

Armenian Bar Association Lawyers and Law Students Offer Relief from Criminal Convictions

The Armenian Bar Association and the National Armenian Law Students Association have added another important dimension to their public outreach and pro bono platforms. This time, on February 3, 2018, volunteer lawyers and students will provide an opportunity for a segment of the Armenian community to pursue reducing and erasing their non-violent and non-serious criminal records.

Entitled “New Beginnings: A Guide to Clearing Criminal Records,” the February 3rd free clinic is designed to serve an often-overlooked and routinely-shunned section of the community. Some individuals who are stigmatized by their seemingly permanent and encumbering criminal records will be given a fresh chance to regain control over their lives, opening the way to potential qualification for housing, employment, residency, and public benefits. Although Proposition 47 and Expungements are offered county-wide by other groups, this initiative is focused on reaching Armenians in a less-intimidating setting with bilingual staff.

Proposition 47 was passed by California voters in 2014. The law not only reclassified certain low-level felonies as a misdemeanor, but it gave qualified candidates the ability to revisit their old criminal convictions and petition for resentencing. Low-level crimes include certain theft and drug possession offenses. Some benefits of reducing felonies to misdemeanors include aiding in the immigration process, pursuing higher education, and the ability to seek meaningful employment.

An expungement, on the other hand, is a more traditional and absolute type of remedy, resulting in the ultimate dismissal of a prior conviction. California’s expungement law permits qualified candidates convicted of a crime to file a petition for dismissal. The process includes re-opening the case, setting aside the plea, and ultimately dismissing the case “in the interests of justice.” Qualifying candidates cannot currently be on probation, parole, or facing new charges. The benefits align with Proposition 47 – but expungements do more than just reclassify convictions: they wipe clean a successful applicant’s criminal record.

The clinic is scheduled to take place on February 3rd at the Glendale Adult Recreation Center – 201 E. Colorado St., Glendale, CA 91205. Individuals are required to: (1) call 818-937-3152 or email ArmenianClinic@gmail.com to schedule an appointment and (2) obtain a copy of their court docket from an L.A. County courthouse. Attorney and law student volunteers will screen the client for qualification purposes and assist with the numerous court documents necessary to perform either Proposition 47 or Expungement relief.

05 Jan 2018

Armenian Bar Partners with the City of Glendale to Combat Elder Abuse

In late 2017, the administration of a prominent Los Angeles-area Armenian high school alerted the public that a group of youths, pretending to be students from the school, had entered apartment buildings and approached homes with the intent to target and swindle the elderly. These young impostors claimed to be Armenian school students and concocted a scheme of abject dishonesty in which they fabricated a sales pitch that they were collecting much-need funds for the betterment of their school library.

Understandably, many elderly Armenians responded to what they believed to be genuine calls for financial assistance and handed over their money for what they thought was a good cause. To help bring these deceitful acts to an end, the Armenian Bar Association moved swiftly and contacted Onnig Bulanikian, Director of the City of Glendale’s Community Services and Parks Department. The Armenian Bar proposed partnering with the Department’s Senior Services Division to present to the senior-citizen community a series of “Know Your Rights” lectures so that they may be made aware of and in a better position to protect themselves from such and other deplorable attempts of abuse.

“The elderly members in our community are an especially vulnerable segment of the population who, unfortunately, sometimes find themselves to be the victims of abuse and financial scams designed to take advantage of them,” said Saro Kerkonian, Chairman of the Board of the Armenian Bar Association. “Working with Glendale city officials, we identified the areas of greatest need and developed a program to educate the elderly and their caretakers to heighten awareness of the issues and take steps which will protect them from falling prey to the unscrupulous who seek to take advantage of our senior citizens,” added Lucy Varpetian, Armenian Bar Association Member and Senior Assistant City Attorney for the City of Glendale.

To accomplish the goals of the partnership, two primary objectives were set into place:  First, the City of Glendale’s Community Services and Parks Department translated into Armenian a detailed informational brochure, which explains the various forms of abuse that the elderly can be subjugated to, provides tested methods which the elderly can implement to avoid becoming victims of abuse, and also provides references to social service agencies which can assist once an act or acts of abuse take place.  The brochure will be disseminated throughout the City of Glendale, at locations such as the public social service centers, libraries, City Hall, and other similar public-gathering venues.

The second manner in which the elderly will be served through this program is by way of public forums where noted experts in the field will speak about the subject of elder abuse and financial scams directed at the elderly.  The first two presentations will be taking place on January 17, 2018, at 10:30 a.m. at the Adult Recreation Center located at 201 E. Colorado St., Glendale, CA 91205 (presented in Armenian).  The second lecture which will be presented in English will be held on February 8, 2018, at 10:30 a.m. at the Sparr Heights Community Center located at 1613 Glencoe Way, Glendale, CA 91208.

Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney and active Armenian Bar member, Amy Ashvanian, who has successfully prosecuted numerous defendants accused of elder abuse, will impart her years of prosecutorial expertise to attendees at these first two events.  Admission to the events are free of charge. For more information, please call (818) 548-3775.  A copy of the brochure in Armenian may be found here: https://armenianbar.org/resources/

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.”

 

06 Jul 2017

MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIRMAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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