Vartkes Yeghiayan, Arda Yemenidjian Honored at ArmenBar Conference in Las Vegas


LAS VEGAS — Numerous attorneys, judges, law professors and law students flocked to the Tropicana Hotel and Casino, as the Armenian Bar Association (ArmenBar) presented an outstanding group of legal experts on January 15. Vartkes Yeghiayan, who has gained prominence as a Genocide reparations pioneer, and Arda Yemenidjian, a community leader and philanthropist, received special recognition at a luncheon in their honor.

“The quality of the speakers and the content of the lectures equaled or exceeded any program offered in the legal community,” said Edvin Minassian, chairman of ArmenBar. “We were extremely proud to have been able to present such a distinguished group of legal scholars to our members, and honor two of the finest members of our community,” said Minassian.

The event was held in the all new Tropicana Conference Center. The Tropicana is undergoing a $180-million renovation under the direction of new owner Alex Yemenidjian, and is on its way to re-establishing its reputation as a premiere Vegas destination.

Yeghiayan was introduced at the luncheon by US Army Brigadier General and accomplished trial lawyer Mark MacCarley. He received the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award, the group’s highest honor.

Arda Yemenidjian was introduced by Vicken Simonian, past chairman of ArmenBar, and received a Public Service Award. Both honorees were given a standing ovation.

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Garo Ghazarian, ArmenBar vice-chairman, and dean of the Peoples College of Law, was the master of ceremonies at the luncheon. The group was addressed by Chairman Minassian, Board members Hovanes Margarian and John Lulejian and Raffi K. Hovannisian. Hovannisian is the founding father of ArmenBar, the first foreign minister of the Republic of Armenia, and the first Diasporan Armenian to become a member of the Armenian Parliament as the head of the Heritage party. His words regarding the honorees and the organization were thoughtful, inspirational and moving.

Preeminent attorney Yeghiayan was joined by law professor, Michael Bazyler, federal court international litigation expert Lee Crawford-Boyd and Setrak Davuthan, a prominent community attorney for Turkish-Armenians. Two topics were presented as part of the program, including “Legal Remedies, restitution or monetary compensation for the dispossession of Armenians of pre-Genocide communal and private property in their homeland” and “Current State of Legal Affairs involving Armenians in Turkey.” Attorneys attending the event earned four units of continuing legal education credits.

The legal remedies’ discussion was moderated by Yeghiayan and included Bazyler, a Chapman University School of Law professor and Crawford-Boyd. Bazyler is a leading authority on the use of the American and European courts to redress genocide and other historical wrongs. Boyd is of counsel with the law firm of Howarth & Smith in Los Angeles. She is an adjunct professor at Pepperdine Law School teaching international law, complex litigation and human rights. As a litigation consultant, she specializes in federal court complex cases and international relations.

The panelists discussed the wide array of Genocide aftermath recoveries, including lawsuits against insurance companies, European banks, companies that employed slave labor, museums who hold looted artwork and governments holding improperly seized land. Past and current cases involving Holocaust and Genocide claims were discussed, including legislation to extend the statute of limitations.

Also addressing the audience was Loyola law professor, Stan Goldman. Goldman teaches a class at Loyola, with Bazyler, on post-Genocide remedies. He is the faculty advisor to the Loyola Armenian Law Students Association. The discussion regarding the state of legal affairs involving Armenians in Turkey was delivered by Davuthan. He is a lawyer for the foundations of the Armenian community in

Istanbul. He led the precedent setting legal effort for Armenian Foundations in Istanbul before the European Court of Human Rights, successfully recovering real property seized in 1936 from Samatya Surp (Saint) Kevork Armenian Church Trust and the Surp Pirgic Yedikule Hospital Foundation.

Davuthan has represented the community in a diverse number of cases including the rights of Turkish-Armenians to elect a new patriarch and the rights of children of Armenian citizens to attend private schools in Turkey. He discussed these issues, and the challenges of litigating civil rights cases for minority class citizens of Turkey.

Yeghiayan was responsible for initiating, and was lead counsel, in the landmark case of Marootian v. New York Life. The class action lawsuit sought to recover life insurance proceeds relating to victims of the Armenian Genocide. The case resulted in a $20-million settlement and touched off a series of cases involving recovery of Genocide-related claims. He is currently involved in a case against the Turkish government and two Turkish banks to recover $63 million for land improperly seized from Armenians during the Genocide, including land which is currently occupied by the strategic Incirlik airbase utilized by the US military.

Arda Yemenidjian is the wife of Alex Yemenidjian, the former CEO of MGM Studios and current owner of the Tropicana. She is one of the first students of the Ferrahian high school in Encino, the first Armenian school in California. She has been involved in the legal field for many years, managing the Law Office of Terenik Koujakian, her brother. She has been involved with a number of Armenian charities and non-profit organizations, donating her time and resources to worthy Armenian causes.

As a board member of UNICEF, she helped the group focus on helping under-privileged children in Armenia and Lebanon. As a Board member of the Mary Manougian school, she promoted the highest standards of education. She was honored for her lifelong commitment to public service.

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