Research Proposal

Democratic Governance, Transparency, and Accountability




It is fundamental to any judicial system that it be fair, objective and equally available to all citizens it serves without regard to their background, beliefs or economic standing. A judicial system occupies an extremely important part, indeed the most important part of any civilized society. The concept of dispute resolution, which is recognized and respected by citizens, is a concept without which a society cannot long survive. This is true whether it is a society of a few people or millions. What has distinguished a “civilized” society from something less over the millenniums has been a rule of law and a way to vindicate ones rights.

There are several methods that a truly independent judicial institution must employ to assure its proper place in government and in the society it serves. Transparency and absolute access to courts regardless of person’s place within the society are key elements. Barriers to access to justice in
Armenia come in different forms. The lack of information about courts and how they may be accessed to best serve the people ranks as an important barrier, closely related to the lack of trust and confidence. In its turn, “earning” the public’s trust is a duty of any judicial institution, which does not automatically flow from an institution’s presence as a segment of government but must be earned every day. The Armenian public is highly critical of some of the aspects of the justice system and these perceptions have eroded confidence in courts. This erosion of confidence comes partly from perception and partly from reality. Some of the perception comes from lack of civility from a few overworked or under-trained staff, some - that justice can be bought and sold. Therefore, surveys and other methods are needed to reveal the reality. It is worth mentioning, however, that decline of public trust is not unique to the court system of Armenia. Yet, this phenomenon, if unchecked, will eventually erode an institution so vital to binding people together and will threaten Democracy itself.

At the same time, there are other key factors that contribute to the present low status of courts in the eyes of their users. Among these are the overall administrative and supervision structure of courts, performance and attitude of court staff, budgetary constraints and non-participatory budget formation, etc., which require multi-tiered and comprehensive solutions.

Indeed, the existing system of court administration in Armenia is recognized by many involved in the justice system – judges, prosecutors, attorneys and court-users generally – as in need of substantial changes. The system at present often impedes the administration of justice rather than facilitates it: judges spend too much time engaged in clerical and administrative tasks, thus hindering reliable, consistent and fair application of the law; the Council of Courts Chairmen was intended to be a “court administration body”, but its decisions have no legal force. In general, the court administration needs to be re-conceptualized as a service system of users and providers, rather than a purely bureaucratic system of control, one that demands long-range planning and involvement of multiple categories of professionals interested in the court system. It is therefore critical to carry out a profound assessment and analysis of the existing system of court administration and provide policy recommendations on its modernization.

According to the Constitution of Armenia, courts of general jurisdiction are courts of the first instance, courts of appeal and the court of cassation. There can also be economic, military and other courts as may be provided by law. For the implementation of this provision, the Law on Judiciary adopted in 1998 states the Armenian judicial system as follows:
According to the official statistics, in 2004 the courts have employed in total 1,954 staff. These court officials are outside the broad umbrella of the State Service, which includes the Civil Service, the Police, the Custom Service, the Diplomatic Service, the National Assembly and Emergency Services. There is no legislative framework for court employment that provides for employee status, criteria for admission to and withdrawal from service or salary setting as was established for State Service employees within the framework of recent public administration reforms. Courts lack statutory protection for its employees. Therefore, it is necessary to assess the options on how best to address this regulation gap – by drafting a new Courts Act or preparing major amendments and additions to the existing Law on Judiciary and other relevant regulations. This is hoped to be accomplished and incorporated in the final policy recommendations.  


The objectives of the project are to perform a qualified analysis/research and develop specific and practical policy recommendations on the judicial service and necessary improvement of the judicial administrative function – court administration. The project will focus on: Though during the research the status of judges, their selection, appointment and promotion procedures and practices will also be examined, it is not within the objective of this particular research to make recommendations in this area[1]. The project will rather focus on the system of court administration and management of non-judicial personnel. Finally, the research findings and recommendations will contribute to and assist the Government (Ministry of Justice) and donor organizations in designing judicial reforms in Armenia. 


The project will be implemented in four phases applying the methodology outlined below:
  1. Review and Analysis 
  2. Survey
  3. Developing Recommendations 
  4. Publication of a court guide and other results-oriented activities
The first step will include a thorough review and analysis/assessment of the selected courts. It is planned to take one court from the courts of general jurisdiction, prescribed in the Law on Judiciary, and, separately, the Council of Courts Chairmen, as a body formally responsible for certain administrative functions. At this stage, relevant laws, sub-legislation, instructions and directives, charters and internal rules that are enforced and applied in Armenia will be reviewed. Necessary acts will be obtained through the on-line legal database at, IRTEK database, the “Official Bulletin” published by the Government; other required documents (such as internal rules, charters, job descriptions, etc.) will be taken from the identified courts. The documentary research will be combined with personal interviews and consultations with respective judges, court officials, representatives of the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Finance and Economy, Law faculty of the State University, Council of Courts Chairmen, ABA/CEELI (American Bar Association’s Central and East European Law Initiative) and citizens as court users. As a result of this phase, it is expected to identify and analyze in detail the gaps/shortcomings and potential discrepancies in the existing legislation [2] as well as reveal the correspondence of actual practices with the officially adopted procedures.  

Further, it is viewed essential to include in the research paper a comparative analysis by exploring the court administration efforts and experience in several countries that passed this path of reforms. In particular, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Estonia[3] and Hungary will be considered due to the remarkable progress made in this area as well as the closeness of certain characteristics with Armenia. Information and data will be obtained primarily from online resources, including but not limited to the legal database, reports of donor organizations such as USAID, World Bank, GTZ, EU monitoring reports, etc.  

Concurrently, it is planned to conduct surveys to assess the level of satisfaction of court users (defendants, witnesses, plaintiffs, court employees, etc.) with the work of the courts. It is anticipated that the inquiry will include all areas, which contribute to the courts performance, including customer relation, management practices, timeliness, equality, fairness, judicial behavior, judicial processes, court procedures, access to information, clarity of instructions, fees, etc. The survey findings will serve as a tool to measure the performance of courts and identify measures to be taken for administrative improvements such as enhancing the court management, user-friendliness and service provision from the lessons of those who have experienced the courts in action. Therefore, it is hoped that the surveys will give an opportunity for public input as a result of which major concerns will be isolated and addressed while drafting policy recommendations.

As a result of the research and survey conducted, policy recommendations with their analyses, justification and implications will be formulated. It is also envisaged to discuss the recommendations with responsible staff in each selected court, officials directly involved in policy-making processes, the Ministry of Justice representatives as well as public administration and legal experts from academia.  

During this stage, it is intended to develop plain language informational booklet to guide court users and public in general to more easily navigate the court procedures and processes. The booklet will be published in local language and distributed widely to NGOs, public and university libraries, courts in the capital and regions, information centers, etc. Additionally, the final phase of the project will aim at activities ensuring that the findings of the research and the subsequent policy recommendations are also made widely available and disseminated to primary beneficiaries, mass media and, importantly, to the public via various means mentioned below in this proposal.


The need for the proposed research is particularly significant at the present stage of public administration reforms in Armenia. Having started in mid-90s, the following reforms have taken place: introduction of the civil service, adoption of the Law on Civil Service that differentiates political, discretionary and civil service posts and establishes a new job classification system, regulates personnel management and labor relations within civil service; adoption of the Law on Public Service in the National Assembly that sets provisions for administration and personnel management of public servants employed by the parliament; adoption of the Law on Public Administration Institutions, which provides for the main functions of the founder, head of a state body, and chief of staff in respective institutions; adoption of the Law on Judiciary and Law on Justice Council, which address the selection/appointment, compensation, labor and service relations of judges only. This leaves out the determination of the legal status of courts staff and regulation of their functions, accountability, appointment and dismissal. The lack of transparent and unified court administration structure and policies potentially gives grounds for nepotism, arbitrary actions and decline in trust and confidence in courts administration system.

Apart from policy recommendations, the proposed informational court guide in local language will be an invaluable outcome of the project. The latter is even more important given the complete lack of such informational materials on court services in Armenia. Previously, through the assistance of various international donor organizations, several brochures have been published related only to the general structure of the judicial branch in the Republic.


The final output of the project will be:
  1. a research paper and a policy recommendations package with an action plan, which will be distributed among relevant state authorities, NGOs, academic circles, donor organizations and made available at a web site for a wider use by interested public. The research findings and recommendations will also be presented and discussed at the “Public Administration” course with the social sciences students of the Yerevan State Linguistic University;
  2. publication of a user-friendly court guide - an informational pamphlet on court operation and services and access to them (including the steps and procedures for effective claim filing, complaint form, appeals process). The pamphlet will provide basic instructions to court users in layman’s language and terms and will be distributed to courts, NGOs, libraries, civic and other groups;
  3. articles in native language published in local newspapers and aimed at increasing citizen awareness and obtaining public’s and policy makers’ “buy in” for the proposed changes. The articles will be printed at various stages of the project implementation.


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[1] It is explained by the fact that though not absolutely perfect, these mechanisms are already set forth in the Law on Judiciary (1998) and Law on Council of Justice (1995); whereas the area of administration and personnel management of court officials/non-judicial personnel has been left unregulated. 
[2] Law on Judiciary (1998), Law on Judges’ Status (1998), Law on Public Administration Institutions (2001), Law on Council of Justice (1995), etc.
[3] Estonia is also considered since while designing reforms in the public administration in Armenia, the model of Estonia was largely considered.