Preliminary versions of the Rule of Law Index already had signaled that its final report would not be encouraging for the U.S. justice system. But the results in the official version of the index released Oct. 14 still paint a surprisingly stark picture of this country’s standing compared with other advanced nations when it comes to incorporating principles of the rule of law, the ABA Journal reported today.
The report, produced by the World Justice Project—a 3-year-old initiative sponsored by the ABA and a number of other organizations representing various disciplines—indicates that the U.S. lags behind other highly developed nations on all but one of nine key measures of adherence to the rule of law.
Every major region of the world is represented in the index. Peer groups of nations are categorized in the study on the basis of income level and region, but not form of government. The U. S. is part of the 11-nation high-income group and seven-nation Western Europe and North America regional group.
The good news for the U.S. is that it ranks no lower than 11th among the 35 countries covered by the index on any of nine key principles. However, when compared with its high-income and regional peers, the U.S. ranks at or near the bottom in nearly all of those categories. The other nations that make up the high-income group are Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore, South Korea, Spain and Sweden. The Western European nations and Canada are included in the regional group with the U.S.
Seven of the 11 nations in the high-income group rank in the top three on at least one of the rule of law factors identified by the World Justice Project. At the top is Sweden, which received eight top-three rankings, followed by the Netherlands (seven), Austria (five), Japan (three), Singapore (two), and Australia and the U.S. (one each).
Significantly, the U.S. ranks last within both its income and regional groups on providing access to civil justice, which the index measures primarily on the basis of whether citizens believe they can bring their cases to court and whether representation by lawyers and other legal professionals is available and affordable.
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