Fresno attorney Warren Paboojian named trial lawyer of the year by statewide group

Warren Paboojian
Warren Paboojian Special to The Bee

Over three decades, Fresno attorney Warren Paboojian has collected several honors, including Trial Lawyer of the Year from the Consumer Attorneys of California in 2008; San Joaquin College of Law Hall of Fame in 2011; and top 100 “Super Lawyers” of Northern California for five consecutive years.

Paboojian can add a new honor to his résumé: 2017 Trial Lawyer of the Year by CAL-ABOTA, a chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates.

Paboojian said his latest award is special because unlike Consumer Attorneys of California, which comprises only attorneys who represent plaintiffs, CAL-ABOTA comprises plaintiff and defense civil attorneys who must meet stringent criteria to be members.

“I’m very grateful and humbled to receive the award,” Paboojian said. “It is a great honor.”

CAL-ABOTA has more than 1,600 members in eight chapters in the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, San Francisco, San Diego and Sacramento, as well as the San Joaquin Valley, Central Coast and San Bernardino-Riverside.

Warren beat the cream of the crop in the legal field.

David Cohn, president of the San Joaquin Valley chapter of CAL-ABOTA

To become a member, a lawyer has to adhere to high ethical and legal standards, and must have argued at least 20 jury trials to a verdict, said Bakersfield lawyer Dave Cohn, who is president of the San Joaquin Valley chapter, which has 80 members. The lawyer also has to be nominated by a member and then get support from 75 percent of the chapter’s membership to become a member, Cohn said.

Paboojian, who joined CAL-ABOTA in 1999, has litigated more than 55 jury trials to a verdict in Fresno County and elsewhere. Eight of his trials have reached verdicts in excess of $1 million in the past 10 years. Among his wins are the $19.1 million verdict in Stacy Johnson-Klein v. California State University, Fresno, and the $8.5 million verdict against Fresno County in the wrongful death of 10-year-old Seth Ireland, who was beaten to death by his mother’s boyfriend.

Paboojian said Thursday that the Johnson-Klein case – involving a former coach of the Fresno State women’s basketball team – brought awareness to the disparity in treatment of women, and the Ireland case shed light on the inadequacies of Child Protective Services in protecting children.

“This is a big honor,” Cohn said Friday, noting that each chapter nominates one member for trial lawyer of the year. The organization’s entire membership then votes on the winner. Usually lawyers from Los Angeles, Orange County or San Francisco win the award because they have the largest memberships, he said.

“Warren beat the cream of the crop in the legal field,” Cohn said. “It’s like winning the best actor or best actress award at the Academy Awards.”

Since 1962, when CAL-ABOTA first gave out the award, only three other lawyers from the Valley have won it: the late Richard McCormick (1976); the late Lowell Carruth (1997); and Richard Watters (2006). The chapter covers the area from Bakersfield to Modesto.

Past members include Fresno Superior Court Judges Mark Snauffer and Rosemary McGuire, and Justice Stephen Kane of the 5th District Court of Appeal in Fresno.

I’m very grateful and humbled to receive the award.

Fresno attorney Warren Paboojian

Cohn said members must exhibit the best traits of a trial lawyer – excellence in advocacy, a distinguished career and a reputation for civility, ethics and fair play. He said Paboojian was named lawyer of the year for his body of work and his community service.

Paboojian, 59, is a graduate of Roosevelt High School in Fresno; California State University, Fresno, in 1980; and the San Joaquin College of Law in Clovis. He and his wife, Lesa, have three children: Tara, Bridget and Tyler.

He is a founding partner of the law firm of Baradat & Paboojian. In selecting Paboojian as lawyer of the year, Cohn said the membership recognized Paboojian for helping to establish Departed Angels, a nonprofit that has helped pay funeral expense for children.

Founded in 2007, the nonprofit has donated tens of thousands of dollars to help dozens of families, Paboojian said.

Paboojian will be given the Trial Lawyer of the Year award during the CAL-ABOTA conference in Hawaii in November.

Pablo Lopez: 559-441-6434, @beecourts