Thursday, December 27, 2007
Retired Superior Court Judge Kehiayan Dead at 80
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Haig Kehiayan has died at age 80.
Kehiayan, a longtime resident of the Santa Clarita Valley, died Tuesday. Information regarding services was not available as of late yesterday.
A longtime Republican, Kehiayan was appointed to the bench by Gov. George Deukmejian in 1998. He was elected in 1990 and reelected in 1996, and he continued to hear cases by assignment after his retirement in 1998.
Attorney Lee Kanon Alpert, a friend who had known Kehiayan for 30 years, said that he would be missed terribly. Alpert called Kehiayan a “good lawyer,” and a “great judge,” and said that he had a no-nonsense style that made him very effective. Alpert said these characteristics carried over from Kehiayan’s days as at litigator.
“He had an incredible sense of humor,” Alpert said. “He was a great strategist and was tough as a trial attorney and a litigator, but always with a smile and a gentlemanly way.”
Retired California Supreme Court Justice Armand Arabian, who swore Kehiayan in as a judge, agreed.
“He was the sweetest human being,” Arabian said. “I never heard a bad word about him, and never heard him utter a bad word about anyone else.”
“Haig was truly a prince among men,” former Los Angeles District Attorney Robert H. Philobosian said. “This is a great loss to the community. He was always unselfish and thinking of others. He was a loyal friend to many of us in the Armenian American community and among the judges and lawyers.”
Kehiayan graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1945, and then joined the U.S. Navy during World War II, rising from the rank of seaman 2nd class to seaman 1st class and receiving the Victory Medal World War II.
After the war, he attended college at USC where he engaged in private real estate sales and various part-time employment while a student. Upon graduating with a degree in public administration in 1950, he served as right of way agent for the California State Division of Highways, Los Angeles, until 1956.
During this time Kehiayan also attended Southwestern Law School, where he graduated cum laude in 1955, and was admitted to the State Bar of California in 1956. He also engaged in post-graduate studies in medical-legal anatomy at the College of Osteopathic Physicians & Surgeons, part of the USC Medical Center, from 1958 to 1959.
Kehiayan began his law practice in Los Angeles in 1956, practicing first as a sole practitioner, and then with the law firm of Kehiayan, Herman & Stromwell from 1963 to 1965. He then practiced with the firm of Kehiayan and Herman from 1965 until 1967, when he became partner in the firm of Oliver, Sloan, Kehiayan & Vargas.
In 1969, he began practicing in Mission Hills, where he engaged in general practice. He became partner in the law firm of Kehiayan & Herman in 1978, and then in 1981 became president of Haig Kehiayan, ALC, specializing in real estate, small business, and probate cases until his appointment as a judge.
Prior to his appointment, he was a member of the American Arbitration Association from 1965 to 1988, serving as an arbitrator with the Los Angeles Superior Court and the San Fernando Valley Arbitration Program from 1979 to 1988.
Kehiayan was a member of the American Bar Association, the Los Angeles County Bar Association, and the San Fernando Valley Bar Association, where he served as president from 1986 to 1987. He was also a member of the California Judges Association, the Armenian Professional Society, and served as a delegate to the California State Bar’s Conference of Delegates
He was appointed by Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich to two terms on the Los Angeles County Economy and Efficiency Commission, serving from 1981 to 1986, where he rendered a report on efficiency and economy in the courts.
Kehiayan was also an adjunct professor at California State University, Long Beach, where he lectured in law at the School of Nursing, and an instructor at Anthony Schools where he taught real estate and contract law.
Deukmejian told the MetNews that Kehiayan had always been hard-working in private practice, and that he thought Kehiayan had made an excellent judge who approached his duties in the same manner.
Alpert agreed with this assessment.
“He was the finest judicial officer you could ever find,” he said.
Kehiayan is survived by his wife, Judy, and by his children and grandchildren.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company