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Friday, Jun 2, 2023

Armand Arabian

Even though he hit the peak of the state legal system years ago, Armand Arabian isn’t showing any signs of slowing. For six years starting in 1990, Arabian served as a member of the state Supreme Court after a distinguished career in public service stretching back to the 1960s. His judicial track record, legendary objectivity and leader in sexual assault reform laws led some to call him “Saint Armand.” A New York native, he graduated from Boston University School of Law in 1961 before moving west and passing the California bar in 1962. From there, he took a position as a deputy district attorney in Van Nuys, moving into private practice after a year. A decade later, Arabian re-entered the public sector when Gov. Ronald Reagan appointed him to the Municipal Court and later Superior Court. He didn’t last long 15 months later, Gov. George Deukmejian named Arabian to the Second Court of Appeal. The meteoric rise was the result of several major decisions Arabian saw in front of his court. The most significant and one that gained widespread notice in the legal community came in 1973 when he was a trial judge in Van Nuys Superior Court, a rape case known as People v. Leonardo Rincon-Pineda. As was custom until that time in rape trials, California judges were duty-bound to tell jurors that because “rape is an easy charge to make” to “view the woman’s testimony with caution.” Arabian refused to tell the jurors the caution, arguing the language was demeaning to women. “When it comes to a sex a crime, there was this great suspicion the women weren’t telling the truth,” he said. “Why are we going to single out this single class of complainant?” In 1990, Arabian was elevated the Supreme Court as the 105th associate justice and continued his focus on rape reform, creating a new felony for sexual assault with a foreign object and worked to ban the practice of female complainants having to be certified by a psychiatrist. Arabian would go on to author 104 majority opinions on the high court. But after six years, he was ready to get back to practicing. “I wanted to become a lawyer again,” he said. Arabian returned to the Valley and became a private judge in the Van Nuys Civic Center. While less visible than his post on the high court, he did little to shy away from the limelight. Case in point: just last month, he authored an appellate argument in People v. Jesse James Hollywood and recently presided over a mock trial of Michael Richards, the “Seinfeld” star whose rants at a Hollywood comedy club ignited a flurry of media attention. Elizabeth Post, executive director of the San Fernando Valley Bar Association, said his mediation history is well respected. “I think he’s known in the Valley for his arbitration,” she said. “That’s his reputation; he’s very well-known.” And there’s no plan of retirement yet; at 72, Arabian says he still has work to do. “Every job is different,” he said. “But this one is very rewarding.” Chris Coates

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