Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, January 29, 2010


Page 1


Court of Appeal Justice Steven M. Vartabedian to Retire

Governor Names Superior Court Judges in Five Counties


By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer


Fifth District Court of Appeal Justice Steven M. Vartabedian is retiring after nearly 29 years as a jurist.

A former Fresno Superior Court judge named to the Court of Appeal by then-Gov. George Deukmejian in 1989, Vartabedian, 59, will retire May 31, shortly after his 60th birthday.

Vartabedian was a presiding judge on the Fresno Municipal Court for two years after joining it in 1983. In 1987, Deukmejian tapped him for the Superior Court, where Vartabedian was presiding judge for more than one year.

He attended California State University, Fresno and Santa Clara University School of Law, and shortly after joining the State Bar partnered with Charles Poochigian—who himself became a justice on the Fifth District last year—to form the Fresno law firm Vartabedian and Poochigian in 1976, emphasizing family law and real estate litigation.

The justice also served from 1981 to 1983 on the Sanger Justice Court, as attorneys were not precluded from practicing while serving on the now-defunct justice courts, which were not courts of record.

He taught business law at California State University, Fresno from 1976 to 1981, and in 1992 was a symposium speaker and panelist at the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, for a program titled, “Victim Rights in California.”

Natives of the San Joaquin Valley, Vartabedian and his wife, Marilyn, have three adult daughters, all engaged in careers in law. According to the Court of Appeal, the entire family has also been active in symphonic activities, and Vartabedian’s daughters are string musicians.

Vartabedian said he was retiring now to “try a change of pace.” He said he was unsure of his future plans, given the time until his retirement, but indicated he was interested in becoming a private judge.

Fifth District Presiding Justice James A. Ardaiz said he had heard of his longtime colleague’s retirement and “wasn’t convinced until I actually received a copy” of a letter Vartabedian sent announcing his plans.

Ardaiz, who joined the Court of Appeal in 1987 and became presiding justice in 1994, commented that Vartabedian was “a very strong asset to the court” who was not only “an excellent judge” but “very conscientious [and] very dependable.”

“He was always one of the individuals I could look to for help if I was away and needed someone to act in my stead,” Ardaiz said.

Justice Bert Levy, who joined Vartabedian on the Fifth District in 1997, called the retirement “a tremendous loss for the court,” adding:

“He is a wonderful colleague, an extremely exemplary jurist and a wonderful human being. I consider it a tremendous privilege to have served on the same court.”

Justice Gene M. Gomes, who joined the Fifth District in 2002, said of Vartabedian:

“We’re certainly going to miss him. He’s one of the most experienced jurists in the state. He did just about everything, and it will be difficult to get by without him.”

Gomes said he was unaware of his colleague’s plans, but knew he was “looking at several options,” adding: “He’s a pretty young guy to not be doing anything.”

In other news, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday made the following judicial appointments:

Fresno attorney Joseph A. Soldani, a Democrat, to the Madera Superior Court;

Corona Del Mar attorney Peter J. Wilson, registered decline-to-state, to the Orange Superior Court;

•Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence G. Brown of the Eastern District of California, registered decline-to-state, to the Sacramento Superior Court;

San Joaquin Superior Court Commissioner Seth R. Hoyt Jr., a Republican, to the San Joaquin Superior Court;

•Santa Barbara Superior Court Commissioner Colleen K. Sterne, registered decline-to-state, to the Santa Barbara Superior Court.

Compensation for each position is $178,789.


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