DETROIT, MI- On Friday, September 21st, members and guests of both the Armenian Bar Association and the Michigan-based Armenian American Bar Association (AABA) from Detroit, Los Angeles, Chicago and Toronto gathered for an evening of networking and fellowship in Detroit’s historic Eastern Market district. Special guests included Branch County Probate Court Judge Kirk Kashian, newly appointed 17th District (Redford Township) Court Judge (and former AABA President) Krista Haroutunian, former Armenian Bar Chairs Armen Hovannisian and Saro Kerkonian and former AABA Presidents Diane Margosian Paulsen, Sevahn Merian, Lara Nercessian and Kathy Ossian. In addition to the company, attendees enjoyed a slide show of the Armenian Bar Association’s trip to Armenia and Artsakh for its Annual Meeting in May and brief remarks from Armenian Bar Chair Gerard Kassabian and AABA President Lisa Tehlirian. The event promises to be the first in a long and fruitful relationship between the two bar associations!
GLENDALE — The American University of Armenia (AUA) and the Armenian Bar Association joined forces to sponsor a new Technology and Innovation Legal Clinic at AUA’s campus in Yerevan through two receptions in California, led by David Balabanian, Esq.
The Golden State Bank in Glendale hosted the Los Angeles metro area gathering and the law offices of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, LLP in San Francisco, with Balabanian as host, served as the engaging settings for legal professionals, AUA leadership and supporters who came together to learn more about the association’s partnership with Armenia’s leading university and its innovative projects for current and future students.
Balabanian, the first chairman of the Bar Association, welcomed guests and highlighted the significance of raising dialogue about the role of legal education in Armenia by creating stronger ties between the Diaspora and the homeland. Through his work with the group, Balabanian has brought continued awareness to critical legal issues in Armenia, which is now at a crossroads thanks to the Velvet Revolution and a newfound respect for the law.
“We are experiencing a new era in Armenia,” said Balabanian, who practices commercial litigation. “We hope to expect rule of law and as lawyers we have a special obligation to ensure the safeguarding of the legal system.”
Launching in Fall 2018, the Technology and Innovation Legal Clinic, whose operating costs will be sponsored by the Armenian Bar Association, will be made available to the student community through AUA’s Master of Laws (LL.M.) program.
The clinic, which Balabanian noted as a “valuable resource,” will be the first in Armenia to address the needs for professional legal counseling in rapidly growing fields, including technology, which is experiencing a 20-percent growth in Armenia. Selected AUA students will gain hands-on experience working and providing counseling to IT and engineering startups in relation to a wide range of legal issues, from company registration to contracting to intellectual property rights protection.
Dear colleagues and friends,
Thanks to the efforts of our army of dedicated volunteers, I am once again proud to be involved in another issue of our Armenian Bar Association Newsletter full of noteworthy projects and events. As you know, our Newsletter is designed not only to inform our readers about past and future projects and events, but also to memorialize these projects and events for generations to come. In an effort to have a complete record, we have tasked ourselves to archive as many of the prior print editions of our Newsletter and other material to be made available online.
I am happy to report that our volunteers continue the good work of the Armenian Bar Associa-tion. Judging from the enthusiasm of our members, especially the young leaders, I have no doubt that our Association will reach greater heights in a very short time. I am proud to work shoulder to shoulder with our team from coast to coast.
I value everyone’s participation helping us build a stronger Armenian Bar Association. I also call upon every reader to consider a more active involvement in our future projects, events and our Newsletter. The commitment level is up to you, and no matter the level of involvement, I can assure you a memorable and invaluable experience. Please contact us for involvement opportunities.
I thank you for being a supporter of the Armenian Bar Association! We always welcome your thoughts and comments.
From the Fall Issue of the Armenian Bar Newsletter, Volume 29, Issue 3.
The Armenian Bar Association is pleased to welcome two law students, one from Notre Dame and the other from U.C.L.A., for its inaugural Artsakh Legal Internship Program which will be headquartered in the capital city of Stepanakert. In 2017, the Armenian Bar, working closely with Human Rights Ombudsman Ruben Melikyan, established the program to provide hands-on experiences and real-life opportunities to students who have demonstrated a keen interest in human rights and a personal commitment to the democratic and institutional development of Artsakh. The internship program will kick off during the summer of 2018.
The two Armenian Bar interns are Davit Avagyan and Anahit Sargsyan.
Davit grew up in Armenia and, in his words, he first conceptualized the idea and essence of human rights through the plight of Artsakh to be safe and secure. In 2006, his family moved to the United States, where, though far away geographically, he remained entrenched in the day-to-day happenings in Armenia and Artsakh. According to Davit, it was the national security situation of Artsakh, and in particular the heroism of the young soldiers who protect its borders, which drew his interest in human rights, politics and international relations. Davit majored in political science, while emphasizing studies in international relations, at University of California, Davis. In his four years at U.C. Davis, he chose studies which exposed him to issues such as sovereigns’ territorial integrity, war and peace, and other issues which Armenia faced. He also took on a secondary academic discipline in human rights.
During his studies, Davit always conjured Artsakh and made a point to connect what he had learned about human rights and events in other nations with the historical and present-day situation in Artsakh. In 2017, Davit began his legal studies at Notre Dame Law School, where he joined several of the human rights-related organizations on campus such as the International Human Rights Society and the Exoneration Project. “My previous experiences are dwarfed by the extraordinary opportunity created by the Armenian Bar Association and the Artsakh Ombudsman’s Office through this program. Having the opportunity to work with the Ombudsman of Artsakh on human rights issues would not only drive my education of these issues to a new level, but it would give me the opportunity to put my knowledge and experience to use regarding an issue close to my heart.” said Davit.
Anahit Sargsyan was also born and raised in Armenia, and grew up witnessing the devastating consequences of the Artsakh liberation struggle and ensuing war. Her father was a volunteer who joined the efforts to protect and serve Artsakh before she was born. At sixteen years old, Anahit took college entrance exams and was admitted to the Yerevan State University’s (YSU) Law Department. In 2010, Anahit moved with her family to Sacramento. She currently has two teenage cousins serving on the frontlines of Artsakh, and, according to Anahit, their commitment is a vivid example of the day-to-day issues, local challenges and possible mechanisms to strengthen the peace and secure human rights in such a precarious situation.
Anahit has served as a legislative aide at the California State Senate, where she staffed the newly-formed State Senate Select Committee on California, Armenia, and Artsakh Mutual Trade, Art, and Cultural Exchange. In this position, she learned about the most pressing economic and social issues facing Artsakh. “Interning in Artsakh will allow me to gain first-hand exposure to both international and local human rights issues. Moreover, it will give me the opportunity to contribute the skills that I have acquired so far to the Ombudsman’s work. My hope is to not only learn more about Artsakh, but to bring my knowledge back to share with my peers and be a better advocate for Artsakh in the United States.” said Anahit.
The Human Rights Ombudsman is an independent Constitutional official, who observes the maintenance of human rights and freedoms on the part of state and local self-government bodies and officials, contributes to the restoration of violated rights and freedoms and improvement of the laws and regulations related to human rights and freedoms, deals with human rights issues related to the Karabakh conflict, and answers to the National Assembly (Parliament) of the Republic of Artsakh. Any individual, regardless of ethnic origin, sex, citizenship, residence, race, age, political or other affiliation and activity can apply to HRO.
To learn more about the internship opportunity, please visit: https://armenianbar.org/internship/
Four hundred years ago, the first Armenian—a tobacco grower named Martin the Armenian (Hovhaness Martirosian)–set foot in a land which had not yet become the United States of America, disembarking in the Virginia colony of Jamestown in 1618. Since that time, a rich, diverse, and evolving Diasporan heritage has taken root and flourished in this country. On March 16-17, 2018, an extraordinary conference marking that multi-centennial anniversary will be held at the Ararat Home in the Mission Hills suburb of Los Angeles, and professional from the Armenian Bar Association’s current and former leadership ranks will participate.
Current board member and former chairman Armen K. Hovannisian will share the Association’s history, development and vision as part of a panel discussion on new challenges and strategies in the realms of law, culture and education. Charter member and former chairman Harry S. Cherken, Jr. will offer a captivating presentation about the 1925 United States v. Cartozian case which addressed the issue of whether Armenians were considered “white” for purposes of U.S. naturalization laws.
The Armenian Bar Association has announced that it has awarded four merit scholarships to law students across the United States. The Association, under the leadership of Scholarship Committee Chairwoman Christine Engustian of Rhode Island and committee members Elizabeth Al-Dajani and Laura Karabulut, administered three scholarship programs in 2017, the Vicken I. Simonian Memorial Legal Scholarship, the Andre Kazangian Memorial Legal Scholarship and the Souren Israelyan Legal Scholarship.
“We are absolutely thrilled to once again continue our organizational commitment to the promotion of legal education for Armenian youth who have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement, while at the same time distinguishing themselves through public service for the benefit of the Armenian people, said Scholarship Committee Chairwoman, Christine Engustian.”
After very careful consideration among numerous excellent applicants, the Armenian Bar Association’s Board of Governors approved the candidates recommended by the scholarship committee and awarded scholarships, as follows:
Vicken I. Simonian Memorial Legal Scholarship Winners:
Andrii Trapizonian–Mr. Trapizonian is a young Armenian lawyer living in the Ukraine, who also holds a Masters Degree and has been offered admittance to nine law schools in the United States to attain an LLM. He has accepted to attend the LLM program at the University of Arkansas School of Law. His goal is to help write legislation for the Republic of Armenia on mediation and arbitration. He is actively involved in the Armenian community of Ukraine and several Ukranian bar associations.
Andre Kazangian Memorial Legal Scholarship Winners:
Anna Hakobyan–Ms. Hakobyan has been accepted to Stanford University’s Program in International Legal Studies offered by the Stanford Law School. She was one of only 12 students accepted to this program. She has worked in the OSCE/Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the American Bar Association’s Rule of Law Initiative (ABA/ROLI) which the Armenian Bar works with, the Jessup International Moot Court competition team for Yerevan State University (which the Armenian Bar Association has often supported financially) and she has been a lecturer at AUA Law School.
Anahit Sargsyan–Born in Armenia, Ms. Sargsyan has been accepted to U.C.L.A. School of Law. Her undergraduate work was at UC Davis, where she was on the Dean’s Honor List, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Winter 2015 and graduated with honors. She is a member of the Golden Key International Honor Society and Phi Theta Honor Society. After graduation, she was selected as the first fellow of the Walter and Laurel Karabian Fellowship Program, which led to her employment at Senator Anthony Portantino’s Capitol office as a Legislative Aide. She has also interned with the Law Offices of Peter Stone and Congressman Ami Bera’s office in Washington D.C. She is an active member of the Armenian National Committee of America’s Sacramento Chapter. She participated in projects to register people to vote, to help them understand the voting process and inform them about the politics of the region. She also participated in the organization of advocacy days at the State Capitol to raise important issues for the Armenian-American community.
She also volunteered to support the organizational efforts of the Armenian Genocide Centennial in Washington, D.C. While working in Sacramento, she helped with the newly created Select Committee in the State Senate on California, Armenia and Artsakh Mutual Trade, Art and Cultural Exchange.
Souren Israelyan Legal Scholarship Winner:
Andrew Khanarian–Mr. Khanarian has been accepted to Columbia Law School. Mr. Khanarian was a student intern at the Commission on Judicial Conduct of New York State. The chief executive officer of the Commission gave a very favorable recommendation for Andrew and mentioned that he did such a good job for the commission that Appellate Division Justice Rolando Acosta, who was on the commission, offered Andrew an internship in his chambers. Andrew is a very active member of the St. Leon Armenian Church of New Jersey where he also serves as an executive board member of the Armenian Christian Youth of America program.
Anahit Sargsyan’s scholarship was presented to her in person during a special ceremony at the Armenian Bar Association’s 2017 Mentor-Mentee event at the Downtown Los Angeles law offices of national firm Arent Fox. Andrew Khanarian’s scholarship was awarded to him personally at a special meeting of the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut Chapter of the Armenian Bar Association.
The Armenian Bar Association Scholarship programs are generously funded through grants and donations of benefactors of the Armenian Bar Association. The organization annually holds events to raise funds, including its ever-popular Mixer and Live Auction in Chicago to benefit the Vicken I. Simonian Memorial Legal Scholarship. A yearly golf tournament which also supports the Vicken I. Simonian Memorial Legal Scholarship and other similar events across the country.
The Association also takes this opportunity that the Armenian Bar Association is presently accepting applications for all of its scholarship programs for the 2018-2019 academic year. For information about how to apply for the 2018 scholarship program or to make a donation to the Armenian Bar Association scholarship programs, please visit the Armenian Bar Association website at www.armenianbar.org and the Armenian Bar Association Facebook page.
Career Spotlight: Armenian Bar Hosts Seminar on Judicial Clerkships at UCLA
On Saturday, January 27, 2018, at the UCLA School of Law, the Armenian Bar Association, in partnership with the UCLA Armenian Law Students Association, held an informative and engaging seminar on judicial clerkships. Two exceptional panels of speakers assembled in one of the law school’s traditional, cavernous classrooms and shared sketches of wisdom, experience and advice to the audience of aspiring judicial clerks.
The first panel was anchored by two brilliant and instructive judicial luminaries, United States District Court Judges Dolly Gee and George Wu. Armenian Bar Board member and Student Affairs Committee Co-Chair Elizabeth Al-Dajani of Chicago moderated the judges’ lively interplay of advice and admonitions. Ms. Al-Dajani herself worked as a judicial law clerk in the Circuit Court of Cook County and the Illinois Appellate Court, First District.
The roster of the second panel was made up of an all-star team of former judicial law clerks, Artur Movsesyan, Erna Mamikonyan and Vahe Mesropyan, and was moderated by long-time Armenian Bar member and former judicial law clerk, Tigran Palyan, who is a certified family law specialist practicing in Glendale, California.
The presentations provided the students with valuable insight into the work of judicial clerks, the immense knowledge and experience they would gain by pursuing a career as clerks, and what steps the students could take to prepare and give themselves a better chance at securing such a prestigious position.
Armenian Bar Board Member and Student Affairs Committee Co-Chair Lucy Varpetian remarked, “We are honored to have presented to our student members such a distinguished panel of jurists and former clerks, all of whose perspectives were eagerly received and collectively appreciated. One of our chief organizational purposes is to be a consistent and reliable resource to our student members as they start honing in on their career opportunities. Our conference today reflects the Armenian Bar’s sustained commitment to the new and promising members of the legal profession.”
One of the Armenian Bar Association’s primary objectives is to facilitate access to justice and to provide related education opportunities by volunteering pro bono legal services to the Armenian-American community and to the broader non-Armenian populace. Just in the past several months, ArmenBar attorneys and law students from the National Armenian Law Students Association have teamed up to offer a series of far-reaching programs.
Pro Bono Clinic at the Hollywood Armenian Center
In October, 2017, the Armenian Bar partnered with the Loyola Armenian Law Students Association, under the leadership of National ALSA President, Sarkis Yeretsian, to hold a pro bono legal clinic at the Hollywood Armenian Center where several participants were assisted with their legal questions. More than a dozen lawyers and law students devoted several hours to the program.
Pro Bono Lecture Series to Help Stop Elder Abuse
Then, later in 2017, when the Armenian Bar learned that vulnerable senior citizens were the target of a fraudulent scheme in which teenagers posing as Armenian school students wrangled donations for a phony library improvement, the Armenian Bar promptly took action to help bring these deceitful acts to an end. With the support and leadership of Onnig Bulanikian, Director of the City of Glendale’s Community Services and Parks Department, the Armenian Bar joined the Department’s Senior Services Division to present “Know Your Rights” lectures, thereby putting our elderly in a better position to protect themselves from such deplorable ruses.
“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 Board Member and Senior Assistant City Attorney for the City of Glendale.
Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney and active Armenian Bar member, Amy Ashvanian, who has successfully prosecuted numerous defendants accused of elder abuse, was the keynote speaker for the events. The first lecture took place on January 17, 2018, at the Adult Recreation Center in downtown Glendale and was presented in Armenian. This was followed on February 8, 2018, by a second well-received presentation by Ms. Ashvanian, this time in English, at Glendale’s historic Sparr Heights Recreation Center, on February 8, 2018.
In an interview following the lectures, Ms. Ashvanian stated, “I’m so happy that we were able to accomplish the two primary objectives of the partnership with the City of Glendale: An informational brochure, recently translated into Armenian, explains the various forms of abuse to which the elderly may be subjugated and then, of utmost importance, it provides tested methods to avoid victimization and also provides references to social service agencies which may be in a position to assist and intervene. The brochure will be distributed throughout the City of Glendale. The second positive accomplishment of the program is that we engaged directly with and educate the elderly about abuse and financial scams directed at them.”
The Armenian Bar Association’s Know Your Rights pro bono lecture series will continue with the next topic which is in the realm of housing. The featured keynote speaker is noted landlord-tenant attorney, Raymond Hovsepian. “There is a serious housing crisis in Los Angeles and it is imperative that tenants are aware of their legal rights and take the steps needed to prevent those rights from falling into jeopardy,” said Mr. Hovsepian. The Armenian-language program will be presented on March 22, 2018, at 10:30 a.m. at the Adult Recreation Center and the English-language program will be held on April 12, 2018, at 10:30 a.m. at the Sparr Heights Recreation Center.
Proposition 47 and 64 Expungement Pro Bono Clinic—Glendale
On February 2, 2018, thanks to the phenomenal work of NALSA board member and President of the Southwestern University Armenian Law Students Association, Brigitte Malatjalian, and talented Armenian Bar members, Alexandra Kazarian and Vicky Ourfalian, the Armenian Bar held one of its most successful pro bono clinics in recent history.
In a few short weeks, Ms. Malatjalian assembled a top-notch team comprised of 11 of her fellow Southwestern law students (not all Armenian by the way) who then split into sub-groups of working volunteer units, supervised by criminal defense attorneys Alexandra Kazarian, Vicky Ourfalian, and their attorney colleagues Matthew Kay and Jessica Melikian. Approximately 20 diverse members of the community benefitted from professional assistance with their petitions to expunge criminal records of low-level misdemeanor charges. In so doing, many were given a fresh start on life, allowing them the experience the upside of facing fewer obstacles in securing employment and housing. The event was so successful that the initial date’s calendar completely filled up and there were enough requests for appointments for help that could fill an additional day.
“I am so proud of our volunteer attorneys, Vicky Ourfalian, Alexandra Kazarian, Matthew Kay and Jessica Melikian, along with our law students, led by Brigitte Malatjalian. They, essentially, created a fully-operational law office that greeted participants, had them sign a limited-scope service agreement, prepare a complete package for the participants on laptop computers and had the packages printed on a printer generously provided by Southwestern Law School. This coordination meant that all that the public participant had to do is sign, file and serve the documents,” said Chairman Saro Kerkonian.
The participants were so grateful for the assistance they received, each expressing thanks and one participant even bowed in appreciation! The student volunteers included: Sara
Bagdasaryan, Nina Minassian, Matilda Barseghian, Michael Guloyan, Chizitere Nhadi, Brianna Abrego, Syrita Morgan, Tish Pickett, Sarkis Manukyan, and Marissa Fernandez.
ARMENIAN RELIEF SOCIETY SOCIAL SERVICES
In addition, on January 29. 2018, Armenian Bar board members Armen K. Hovannisian and Saro Kerkonian were received by the Board of Directors of the Armenian Relief Society-Western U.S.A. at their headquarters to assess how the two groups may collaborate to meet the ever-expanding needs for pro bono services. Of particular importance is the burgeoning problem of domestic violence in the Armenian community which has drawn increasing public attention as a result of the strength and courage of the victims to come forward and ask for help. Both long-term and immediate potential projects were discussed by the Armenian Bar’s and the A.R.S.’s leadership groups, with a resulting commitment to consider the formalization of volunteer alliances.
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.