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FERNANDO AWARD WINNER ARABIAN EARNS PRAISE.

Byline: RICK COCA

Staff Writer

UNIVERSAL CITY -- In 1973, then-Superior Court Judge Armand Arabian stared down a sexist mandate that required he inform a jury to consider a woman's rape claim with caution and decided enough was enough.

The requirement had been in effect in California since 1856 and was inspired by the 16th-century commentary of an English judge.

"How can I in good conscience say (to a jury), 'Rape is an allegation easily made'?" Arabian said.

So he didn't.

Although he called his decision to not give jurors in the Rincon-Pineda case the legally required instruction an "act of judicial heresy," that moment of rebellion led to the California Supreme Court voting unanimously to revoke the antiquated guideline.

Following that decision, Arabian became one of the pre-eminent rape-law reformers in the country, introducing legislation to protect victims' rights.

For that and other efforts, including a six-year stint as a California Supreme Court justice, Arabian was named the 2006 Fernando Award winner, given out annually to the San Fernando Valley's outstanding volunteer.

About 250 people attended the 48th annual dinner Friday night at the Sheraton Universal in Arabian's honor, including attorneys Gloria Allred and master of ceremonies Robert Shapiro, who helped win an acquittal for O.J. Simpson.

"He's unique among the judges because not only did he enforce the law as a Superior Court judge, interpret the law as a Supreme Court justice, but in a landmark decision, changed the law for rape victims," Shapiro said.

Arabian said his efforts to improve women's rights in rape and sexual assault cases were inspired by hearing family stories as a child about the horrors of the Armenian Genocide in 1915, particularly the sexual abuses suffered by women at the hands of Turks and Kurds.

"Some women were made slaves, others were raped and some women had their babies bayoneted while still in the womb," he said. "And that wound is still in my heart today. ... I had it in my head that I would be sensitive to the 'unrightable wrong' (of rape), and Rincon-Pineda was that opportunity."

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel called Arabian "more than a judge."

"He's been a community activist," she said. " ... He's a role model for the people in the San Fernando Valley."

Brad Rosenheim, president of the Fernando Award Foundation, said Arabian is more than deserving of the award.

"He has a long, long history of involvement in the San Fernando Valley in a number of different causes as a volunteer going beyond his judgeship," Rosenheim said.

Each year, selecting the winner can prove difficult for the more than 100 potential voters because the finalists are always so deserving, he said.

"One of the truly unique things about the San Fernando Valley is it's a large community, but it has a very local nature," Rosenheim said. "And I think one of the reasons that's the case is there are so many people who put in time and effort to make it such a special place, and that's what we try to promote."

rick.coca@dailynews.com

(818) 713-3329

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Photo:

Robert Shapiro, left, winner Armand Arabian, Gloria Allred and award foundation President Brad Rosenheim are shown Friday at the 48th annual Fernando Award recognition dinner.

Alex Collins/Special to the Daily News
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 3, 2007
Words:549
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