BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — From a star-studded gala banquet to an All-Star Judge’s legal education panel and much more, members and guests of the Armenian Bar Association’s 26th Annual Meeting at the luxurious Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills were treated to an unforgettable weekend.
On Saturday morning, following the association’s business meeting, attendees heard an outstanding educational program featuring four federal jurists focusing on effective litigation practice in Federal courts. The panel consisted of US District Court Judges Andre Birotte, Jr., Larry Burns and Dickran Tevrizian (ret.) and US District Court Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Chooljian. The panel was moderated by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Zaven Sinanian. “What a privilege and honor it is to have panelists with the depth and quality of knowledge that we saw today. We are pleased to deliver unrivaled continuing legal education to our members,” said Armenian Bar Association Chairman Armen Hovannisian in an interview following the lecture.
The morning lecture was followed by a luncheon, where the keynote speaker was Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lance Ito (ret.). Most famous for presiding over the “trial of the century” (People vs. O.J. Simpson), Judge Ito drew several ovations from the audience as he shared highlights of his recent trip to the Republic of Armenia and Western Armenia. To the delight of the audience, Ito gave the audience a pictorial and historical glimpse of Armenia and provided realistic and practical means to garner support for universal recognition of the Armenian Genocide. “His slide show presentation of his journeys to both sides of the land of Ararat, and his detailed knowledge of Armenian history and culture, shows that deep inside the soul of Judge Ito is the Armenian spirit. It was a thrilling presentation,” said Armenian Bar Association Board member Vanna Kitsinian.
The luncheon also featured a special presentation devoted to thanking Pope Francis for his strength in recognizing the Armenian Genocide as the spiritual leader of the one-billion-member Catholic Church. Accepting the Association’s gratitude on behalf of the Armenian Catholic Church was Father Thomas Garabedian, a PhD in Canon Law, who provided the audience with an informative presentation about the great significance of the Pope’s act of recognition. Father Thomas also provided a spiritually uplifting blessing during the luncheon.
The second panel on restorative justice included international law advocates Steve Dadaian, Karnig Kerkonian, and Seepan Parseghian. Moderated by board member Edvin Minassian, the presentation featured Dadaian’s discussion about the various treaties that may have implications on Armenian reparation claims, such as the Treaties of Sevres, Kars, and Lausanne, and the arbitral award of President Woodrow Wilson. There was also a fascinating comparative analysis of the origins of the Zionist Movement, Theodor Herzl and the lessons that can be drawn from the Jewish experience of re-establishing statehood. Karnig Kerkonian further gave an eye-opening perspective on how the legal theory of Res Judicata can have an important implication on Armenian claims if the Armenian diaspora does not formulate a demand of that which it seeks to obtain as reparations. Seepan Parseghian presented the audience with an innovative means of seeking restorative justice through the Indigenous Peoples Act. The presentations sparked such an intense interest among the audience members that a lively and constructive 45-minute question and answer session followed.
The highlight of the weekend was the Gala Silver Anniversary Banquet which took place in the grand Marquesa ballroom of the Montage Hotel. Masters of Ceremony Vanna Kitsinian and Gerard Kassabian presented three of the Armenian Bar Association’s highest honors. The first recipient was Armenian historian and scholar, Prof. Richard Hovannisian. Dr. Hovannisian was presented with the association’s highest honor, The Hrant Dink Freedom Award, presented to only an exceptional few individuals who have demonstrated the ability to speak truth to power on issues of great magnitude to the Armenian community. Armenian Bar Association Chairman, Armen Hovannisian was recognized for his leadership of the organization.