Law 15:58 26/12/2022 Armenia

Open letter to USAID: Judge Anna Pilosyan has carried out her duties ‘heroically’

Human and civil rights advocate, criminal defense attorney Garo Ghazarian has addressed an open letter to the USAID Armenia chief concerning judge Anna Pilosyan. The full letter follows:


Mr. John Allelo

Mission Director, USAID Armenia

Dear Mr. Allelo,

Congratulations on your December 15th launching of a new five-year project supporting the Government of Armenia to establish a fair and equitable justice system, and to increase public trust in the rule of law, funded by USAID and implemented by Development Professionals, Inc.

At the launch event, you stated that “USAID’s Justice Sector Support Project stands ready to help Armenia resolve issues that plague the judiciary, such as an inefficient case management system, a growing backlog of cases, and a lack of transparency over court rulings.”

Reportedly, the project’s activities are to advance the functional independence and effectiveness of the judicial branch, strengthening of the capacity of the courts, the relevant self-regulatory agencies, and educational institutions, as well as by facilitating multi-stakeholder oversight of the implementation of justice sector reforms.

With this writing, I bring to your attention, to include in your ongoing discussions regarding the current challenges facing the judicial system and opportunities for strengthening the justice sector in Armenia, a matter ripe for consideration: the case study of a Judge in Armenia, Anna  Pilosyan who this past week was before the country’s Supreme Judicial Council, responding to charges brought by the Justice Ministry, of “not timely issuing rulings” in merely 4 (0.1%) of the more than 5,000 cases on her docket.

Here are the two sessions of the SJC:


During one of my 3 visits to Armenia in the last 6 months, I visited a courtroom in Yerevan where, presiding in one of the courtrooms was Judge Anna Pilosyan. I’ve known Judge Pilosyan for seven (7) years. She is one of several judges in Armenia whose careers I have followed, and whose courtrooms I have visited over the years, to observe proceedings underway, in an effort to observe courtroom proceedings, and to bring my findings and suggestions for improvement of the Judicial System of Armenia to among others, the country’s Ministry of Justice.

For over a decade now, during just about each visit to Armenia, I have met and shared my observations and concerns about Armenia’s Judicial System generally, and about its Judiciary particularly, to multiple Justice Ministers and multiple Human Rights Defenders, including Mr. Karen Andreasyan, the current Chair of the Supreme Judicial Council of Armenia (SJC), when the latter was serving as Ombudsman of the Republic.

Further, following judicial proceedings with an eye to identify shortcomings as well as improvements, are undertaken by me in person — when in Yerevan, and from afar — when away from Armenia.

I confess, I thought I’d seen all anyone needed to realize the urgent need for judicial reform; and, though I had opted to bite my tongue for the last two years, post 2020 war unleashed onto Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), witnessing of the hearings this past week held by the SJC made me realize that my previous concerns about Armenia’s Judicial System pale in comparison to my utter shock at the dysfunctional state which the Judicial Branch of Armenia is in these days.

My latest observations concern a session of Armenia’s SJC which had come at the request of the Justice Ministry. It was to hold accountable and to mete out discipline to judge Anna Pilosyan for her “failure” to tender an opinion on four (4) matters in a “timely fashion.” So far so good. Except, as I watched these proceedings, it soon became clear to me, that while Judge Pilosyan was being chastised for the delays, several critical factors appeared to be overlooked by both the Ministry of Justice as well as the SJC.

Chief among those factors was the fact that Judge Pilosyan was saddled with over 5,000 cases, and she was being called to account for delaying the issuance of her rulings in just four (4) matters. Simple arithmetic yields a 99.9% performance when measuring the four (4) delayed opinions against the more than 5,000 matters which all sides seemed to agree were on the Judge’s plate. It is this backdrop which begs the question: does it not appear, by all accounts, that Judge Pilosyan has carried out her duties heroically, and as a true “Lady of Justice?”

The answer to that question is what compels me to write to you about the imperative of infusing logic, common sense, and anything resembling justice in today’s Armenia. Why? Because, on any given calendar year, there are 2,000 working hours (50 working weeks at 40 hours per week, with 2 weeks vacation). That is just 24 minutes per case. And exactly what kind of justice can be reached in just 24 minutes?

I have been an active member of the U.S. justice system for 38 years and a lawyer for more than 31 of those years. My service as Dean of a Law School and a Law Professor spans a period of 22 years. I have lectured extensively at law enforcement academies in the U.S. and have served for years as a member of more than one Judicial Evaluation Committee in the State of California. And in all of these years, I have yet to come across a case that can or has competently been decided in only 24 minutes.

Justice is not just meant to be speedy in a vacuum. Justice, true justice, is one which is deliberate, methodical, thoughtful and considerate. Justice is reached only after careful consideration of all the facts and relevant legal principles. And, though it is said that “justice delayed is justice denied,” what is neither often enough said, nor it is often understood, really understood and adhered to, is this: “justice rushed, is a recipe for injustice.”

Thus, I call on the USAID, in its efforts to bring about reform to Armenia’s System of Justice, to see to it that the Judiciary is revamped, its ranks are multiplied at all levels — from its courts of general jurisdiction to its courts of appeal, and on to the country’s highest court. But for the immediate future, the USAID ought to take a close look also at Armenia’s SJC. It is poised to render its ruling on the matter of Judge Anna Pilosyan on this upcoming Monday, December 26th, at 5:45pm. Do take a close look and determine whether the system’s shortcomings are accounted for, and whether institutions are held as accountable as those who try their level best to function within it. Take a close look to see whether it is sound to hold an individual judge accountable for a dysfunctional system, or Armenia’s version of fairness and due process is bringing to life the notion of “justice rushed is a recipe for injustice” in Judge Pilosyan’s case.

Justice in Armenia can only be achieved by reforming the judicial system, not by hauling to the gallows judges like Anna Pilosyan who are saddled by an outrageous amount of matters to rule upon and expected to do so wholesale, 24 minutes per matter. The people of Armenia would be best served by hiring of, and by training of, more and more judges. Until then, everyone involved ought to be grateful for the the likes of Judge Pilosyan, for they are the ones who clearly are burning the midnight oil and producing rulings on 99.9% of the more than 5,000 cases assigned to them.

To be clear, if there is an instance that is a timely indicator of what is — and what is not — necessary to be addressed by USAID this is it.  So do keep a close eye on the SJC’s upcoming ruling on the matter of Judge Pilosyan to determine whether substantive and procedural due process are at play, and whether fairness and common sense are evident. Do keep an eye on the matter to ensure that these principles and values are alive and well in Armenia.

After all, the USAID has invested millions of American taxpayers’ money in Judiciary reform in Armenia. Keeping a close eye on the plight of Judge Anna Pilosyan is a good place to see if the U.S. taxpayers’ money is producing dividends in Armenia, lest it turns out that, despite best efforts by the USAID, the Judicial System in Armenia is not only not changing for the better, it is getting worse."

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