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Governor Picks Friend Arabian for High Court

February 03, 1990|PHILIP HAGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN FRANCISCO — Gov. George Deukmejian will announce today that he is appointing Appellate Justice Armand Arabian, his longtime friend and early political supporter, to the California Supreme Court, informed sources said Friday night.

The 55-year-old Arabian, now serving on the state Court of Appeal in Los Angeles, will replace Justice Marcus M. Kaufman, another Deukmejian appointee who retired from the high court on Wednesday.

Arabian, whose nomination is to be officially disclosed on the governor's weekly radio address, could not be reached for comment, but issued the following statement through a family member:

"I am deeply honored to have been selected by Gov. Deukmejian as his nominee to the Supreme Court. Upon confirmation, I look forward to joining a noble court as it faces the challenges which lie ahead and in its effort to apply the purest standards of justice to the needs of the people it serves."

The nomination of Arabian will be subject to confirmation by the state Judicial Appointments Commission, currently composed of Chief Justice Malcolm M. Lucas, state Atty. Gen. John K. Van de Kamp and Appellate Justice Lester W. Roth, senior presiding justice of the state Court of Appeal.

The commission is expected to set a hearing on the nomination within a month. Confirmation is widely expected and Arabian could be sworn in as a member of the high court as early as March.

Arabian was among several Court of Appeal justices Deukmejian disclosed he was considering for Kaufman's post late in November. Besides the new nominee, the governor's list included, among others, Appellate Justices Carl West Anderson of San Francisco, Ronald M. George of Los Angeles and H. Walter Croskey of Los Angeles.

But in recent days, there was increasing speculation among court observers that the governor might name his old friend and fellow Armenian-American to the court. By late Friday, word had escaped and quickly spread that, indeed, Arabian was to be Deukmejian's choice.

Deukmejian and Arabian became acquainted when they represented opposing sides in a lawsuit in the early 1960s. The two men got to be friends and Arabian attended political dinners and other campaign activities held in Deukmejian's behalf.

Robert H. Philibosian, a former Los Angeles County district attorney and longtime associate of both the governor and Arabian, recalled the new nominee as one of Deukmejian's earliest backers. "When the governor first ran for the state Assembly, one of the first to support him was Armand Arabian," said Philibosian.

The former district attorney described Arabian as an expert legal analyst and writer whose judicial skills would combine "with a very solid law-and-order philosophy" on the high court.

Philibosian noted also that Arabian, only 55, could be expected to serve for a relatively long period. "He's a vigorous and young man and we can look forward to literally decades of service from him," he said.

Although his judicial career spans 18 years, Arabian is perhaps best known in legal circles for a pioneering ruling he made as a Superior Court judge in 1973. At the conclusion of a rape trial, Arabian refused to give jurors a then-required instruction to view the woman victim's testimony with caution--a directive critics perceived as improperly undermining the victim's allegations.

Two years later, the state Supreme Court struck down the controversial instruction--and Arabian went on to write a number of law review articles on the subject.

Gloria Allred, a Los Angeles attorney and leader in feminist legal causes, remembers the case as a judicial landmark and notes that today Arabian often attends gatherings of women lawyers and lends his support.

"He's very conservative, but on the other hand, he seems to have cared deeply about this issue, which affects so many women," Allred said Friday night. "I hope that this translates into equal concern for civil rights in general. Of the many conservatives the governor could have chosen, I am happy that he chose Armand."

Arabian will become the seventh appointment Deukmejian has made to the state Supreme Court since he became governor in 1983. Deukmejian's first nominee was Lucas, his former law partner and a federal district judge, who joined the state court as an associate justice and was elevated by Deukmejian to succeed Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird in 1987.

The governor's choices thus far have been regarded as from conservative to moderate in their judicial philosophies--and from most indications, Arabian appears likely to fit into a similar mold.

In any event, there is little likelihood his presence on the court will cause a sharp shift in the court's philosophical balance. The four Deukmejian appointees now on the court--Lucas and Justices Edward A. Panelli, David N. Eagleson and Joyce L. Kennard--thus far have proved generally conservative. Justices Stanley Mosk and Allen E. Broussard, both appointees of Democratic governors, make up the court's liberal wing.

Arabian was born Dec. 12, 1934, in New York City. In 1962, he married Nancy Megurian and the couple have two children, Allison Ann and Robert Armand Arabian.

Arabian served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army and received undergraduate and law degrees at Boston University. After admission to the California Bar in 1962, he served as a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles and then entered private law practice in Van Nuys .

He was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1972 by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, elevated to the Superior Court the next year and then was appointed to the state Court of Appeal by Deukmejian in 1983.

Sacramento Bureau Chief George Skelton contributed to this story.

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