ABA Annual Meeting Renews Commitment to Rule of Law Initiatives, Elects New Executive Leadership


GLENDALE — On the weekend of May 18-20, the Armenian Bar Association (ABA) hosted its 23rd Annual Meeting at the Glendale Hilton. The weekend was highlighted by the presentation of the coveted Hrant Dink Freedom of Speech Award to Edik Baghdasaryan, editor-in- chief of Hetq.am, a forum for investigative reporting of issues dealing with democracy and justice in Armenia.

The weekend also included the election and swearing in ceremony of the association’s Board of Governors. Criminal defense attorney Garo B. Ghazarian of Glendale was selected by unanimous vote by the entire board as the association’s new chairman. In addition to his federal and state litigation-based law practice, Ghazarian also serves as dean of the People’s College of Law in Los Angeles and as a civil service commissioner for the City of Glendale. Among numerous television and radio appearances as an expert legal commentator, Ghazarian has been interviewed on “Larry King Live” and shared his expertise with Jane Vellez-Mitchell on her program concerning current legal issues.

“I am humbled and very honored for the opportunity to serve as chair of the Armenian Bar Association and I pledge to continue to ful- fill the vision of Raffi K. Hovannisian, the founder of our organization, in assisting those in need, of helping to establish the rule of law in Armenia and protecting the legal rights of Armenians everywhere,” said Ghazarian at a sold-out gala banquet held on May 19, at the Armenian Society of Los Angeles Banquet Hall.

Ghazarian expressed further gratitude when he stated, “I wish to thank immediate Past Chair Edvin Minassian for his exemplary and tireless service of the last two years, with whom I was honored to serve as vice chair of the bar the last two terms and whose insight and wisdom I will continue to seek and employ.” Ghazarian also noted the continued service on the Board of Governors of Minassian’s prede- cessor, Sonya Nersessian, and vowed to build upon the legacy of these two exceptional past chairs and their service to the bar and the Armenian communities of the world and to Armenia these past four years. Ghazarian con- cluded his remarks by stating that, “each of the 17 board members is capable of leading the Armenian Bar, and though I may be the face of the bar during my tenure as chair, the leaders of the bar remain, as they always have been, each one of my fellow colleagues and friends on the Board of Governors.”

Joining Ghazarian on the Executive Committee of the board are: Vice Chair (West Coast) Armen K. Hovannisian of Los Angeles, Vice Chair (East Coast) Harry Dickranian of Montreal, Canada, Treasurer Sara Bedirian of Beverly Hills and Secretary Hovanes Margarian of Sherman Oaks. Minassian will continue to serve the Executive Committee of the board as its chair ex-officio.

The general membership in attendance at the conference also filled five vacancies on the board by voting in favor of the following long- standing members: Judge Amy Hoogasian (US Immigration Judge, San Francisco), Assistant United States Attorney John Lulejian (Los Angeles), Margarian (Sherman Oaks), Sonya

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Nersessian (Boston) and Saro Kerkonian (Glendale). The remaining current members of the board Christine Engustian (Providence), Michael Amerian (Los Angeles), Robert Cannuscio (Philadelphia), Gary Moomjian (New York), Katherine Ossian (Detroit) and Laura Karabulut (Toronto), joined Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Zaven Sinanian on the banquet podium where Sinanian administered their oaths of office. Vicken I. Simonian also serves on the Board of Governors in his capacity as chairman emeritus.

The weekend conference also featured pre- sentations concerning civil, environmental and human rights issues in the Republic of Armenia, moderated by Antranig Kasbarian of the Tufenkian Foundation and included Baghdasaryan of Hetq.am, Ursula Kazarian, founder and president of Armenian Environmental Network, and Sara Anjargolian, an attorney and documentarian from Los Angeles, who has spent many years in Armenia advocating for the advancement of civil and human rights.

Walter Karabian, one of the founding members of the Armenian Bar Association and the youngest speaker in the history of the California State Assembly, was honored by the associa- tion as an Honorary Life Member. The afternoon sessions of the conference saw one of America’s most prominent attor- neys, David M. Balabanian of Bingham, McCutcheon, and Kate Nahabetian, an attorney with the Armenian National Committee in Washington, DC, discuss the history and poten- tial implications of the United States Court of Appeal’s Genocide-relat- ed decision in the case of Movsesian v. Versicherung.

Harut Sassounian, the editor-in-chief of the California Courier, whose columns are reprinted in more than 200 newspapers, journals and periodicals worldwide, presented his dynamic proposal on the formation of a democ- ratically-elected representative body that would be a cross-section of every aspect of Diasporan Armenian society, organizations and religion. The elected body would then make decisions and represent the interests of the entire diaspora before international political and legal forums, such as the United Nations and the World Court.

The final panel of the day provided a personal, insightful look at the recent parliamentary elections that took place in the Republic of Armenia on May 6. The panel featured Baghdasaryan and Ghazarian and took a critical look at Armenia’s electoral process and noted irregularities that continue to persist, recognized some improvements over previous elections and suggested remedies which would possibly bring about posi- tive change in the areas of the electoral process, which fail to meet international and local norms for free and fair elections.

On May 19, with Bedirian serving as the mis- tress of ceremonies, nearly 300 members, guests and family were treated to keynote speeches from Eric Garcetti, current member and former president of the Los Angeles City Council, Carmen Trutanich, the city attorney for the City of Los Angeles, and the Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America, Hovnan Derderian and Archbishop of the Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America, Moushegh Mardirossian. Association members were also recognized for their pro bono efforts during the year.

The weekend closed with a meeting of the Board of Governors, on Sunday, May 20, where the association’s goals and agenda were set and plans were made for the Association’s Mid-Year meeting in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, the weekend of October 19-21.

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