Armenian lawyers believe that introduction of a new provision to the Procedural Code aims at silencing them
Lawyers in Armenia have been outraged by a proposed bill setting punishments and fines for lawyers. Under the bill, judges will be entitled to reprimand lawyers, to expel them from courtrooms or impose fines amounting up to AMD 100 000 (USD 207).
Armenian Justice Minister David Harutyunyan said the provision on court fines would be introduced to the Procedure Code.
A fine may be imposed on a lawyer whose conduct will be regarded by the court as unlawful or unjust. The extent of legitimacy and good faith will be determined by the court in respect of which such conduct was manifested. Consequently, according to the lawyers, the decision can’t be impartial.
Lusine Sahakyan, a lawyer, explained to JAMnews that judges will thus be allowed to impose sanctions against lawyers at any time, particularly in the course of high-profile political cases where the defence actively takes part.
“There shouldn’t be such a provision. It aims to silence lawyers. Numerous sanctions have recently been applied against lawyers by Armenian courts, and now they will be entitled at a legislative level to apply pecuniary sanctions which is unacceptable,” said Sahakyan.
In her words, there were some cases in the Armenian judicial practice where a defender wasn’t allowed to file a petition. Now that a judge has a way of imposing fines, they may impose fines for petitions.
“If a lawyer is fined once for filing a petition, will he petition again? It’s a lever of pressure. It certainly doesn’t apply to all lawyers, but essentially that’s the goal of this measure,” Sahakyan believes.
She thinks that the Armenian Chamber of Advocates acted in a passive manner and failed to fully express its protest:
“Lawyers should have taken serious steps and should have jointly gone on strike. But they have failed to do so.”
Lusine Sahakyan stated that there had been a similar attempt to set fines earlier, but it was rebuffed by the Chamber of Advocates.