Valley legal community leader and former California Supreme Court Justice Armand Arabian passed away Wednesday morning at his home, his family confirmed Friday. He was 83.
Arabian is well known in the community for an annual public-service awards luncheon named in his honor. He also is known for strengthening legal rights of sexual assault victims in the state.
Arabian’s son Robert Armand Arabian, an attorney and commander at the Simi Valley Police Department, said his father died in his sleep. He greatly missed his wife, Nancy, who died in July 2016, Robert Arabian said.
“He’s been living alone and has been kind of sad,” Robert Arabian told the Business Journal. “He died of a broken heart.”
Arabian received his juris doctorate in 1961 from Boston University and a master of laws from the University of Southern California Law Center in 1970 . He served for one year as the deputy district attorney for Los Angeles County before opening his own law practice in Van Nuys in 1963. In 1972 he was appointed as an Los Angeles municipal court judge by Gov. Ronald Reagan; he was promoted to the L.A. County Superior Court the same year, serving as the supervising judge of the San Fernando courthouse. He was appointed to the California Supreme Court in 1990, and he returned to his private practice in Van Nuys in 1996 upon his retirement from the court.
Arabian was active in both the San Fernando Valley Bar Association and the Encino Chamber of Commerce, where he was dubbed honorary attorney general.
“He always got a kick out of administering the oath of office to our board at the annual Installation Gala,” Encino chamber Executive Director Diana Duenas said. He also served on the organization’s board of directors, always taking time to mentor and encourage new board members, she added.
The bar association recognized Arabian’s accomplishments in 1993 with its only-ever lifetime achievement award; in 1999, it dedicated two research centers in the Van Nuys and San Fernando Courthouses in his name.
“For more than 55 years, Armand was a revered member of the San Fernando Valley Bar Association,” bar association President Alan Kassan said in a statement. “We will miss Justice Arabian for his wisdom, humor and support.”
Arabian’s work been honored for the past 18 years through the Justice Armand Arabian Public Service Awards, which recognizes leaders for their contributions to the community, as well as the Arabian Scholarship. Arabian picked many of the recipients himself, noted Gloria Pollack, who helps coordinate the event.
“Working with him for 18 years on the Justice Armand Arabian Awards Luncheon has been delightful,” Pollack said. “He loved the event.”
When he was a Superior Court Judge in Van Nuys, he refused to instruct a jury what the law then required: that rape is a charge easily made and difficult to defend. Two years later, the state Supreme Court agreed with him, and that requirement was eliminated.
Arabian went on to advance other rights for the victims of sexual assault.
Arabian was a close friend to Rickey Gelb, president of commercial real estate firm Gelb Group in Woodland Hills. The two had been doing business together for more than 48 years at the time of Arabian’s passing, Gelb said.
“He’s been a mentor of mine for many years and probably taught me the finer points of the real estate business,” Gelb said. “He would always share his advice on the legal cases that were out there. We shared the same politics.”
For Arabian’s son, Robert, Arabian is best remembered as the father who took him to soccer games and helped him build strong character.
“He impacted a lot of people in a lot of ways I’ll never know about,” Arabian said. “For me, he was just a good dad who instilled good values in his children.”
Funeral arrangements are pending. The family has requested that donations be made to the Armand Arabian Scholarship Fund with the Encino Chamber of Commerce in lieu of flowers.