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Saturday, October 16, 2010

World Justice Report: U.S. Behind on Rule of Law

US Lags Well Behind Other Wealthy Nations on Rule of Law, Report Says

The American Bar Association Journal by James Podgers - October 14, 2010

Access to justice ranking chart from report.

A U.S. justice system already pummeled by blows from the Great Recession is getting more bad news this morning. A report released by the World Justice Project—a 3-year-old initiative sponsored by the ABA and a number of other organizations representing various disciplines—says the United States lags behind other leading developed nations on all but one of nine key measures of adherence to the rule of law. The findings for each country are based on surveys of some 1,000 residents in three leading cities as well as experts in the law and other disciplines. The good news is that the U.S. ranks no lower than 11th among 35 countries covered by the index on any of nine key rule of law principles. But when compared with 10 other nations designated in the index as "high income," the United States ranks near the bottom in nearly all of those categories. Every major region of the world is represented in the index. Peer groups of nations are categorized by the index on the basis of socioeconomic factors and region, but not form of government.

Notably, the United States ranks at the bottom of both its 11-nation economic group and its seven-nation regional group (Western Europe and North America) on providing access to civil justice through the courts and representation by attorneys or other legal professionals. The other members of the high-income group are Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore, South Korea, Spain and Sweden. The Western European nations and Canada also make up the regional group with the United States. Access to civil justice services already is a growing concern in the United States as recessionary pressures are leading many states to reduce funding for their court systems. In some jurisdictions, courthouses have been closed or hours cut back and trials limited. Meanwhile, the Legal Services Corp. uses data from the most recent census to estimate that nearly 57 million Americans—the highest number ever—now qualify for assistance from local legal aid programs. The LSC supports those programs with funding from Congress. Other studies estimate that legal aid offices and pro bono efforts by private attorneys meet only about 20 percent of the civil legal needs of poor Americans. Recognizing the growing crisis, ABA President Stephen N. Zack in August appointed a Task Force on the Preservation of the Justice System to focus on how the recession is affecting access to justice for Americans. When Zack, who is administrative partner in the Miami office of Boies, Schiller & Flexner, announced the task force as one of his primary initiatives, he warned that "the potential to lose the rule of law in our country is very real."

While the low U.S. score on access to justice reinforces concerns in that area, the United States scores only barely higher in the Rule of Law Index on the other factors that the World Justice Project has identified as key components of a rule of law regime that helps support societies based on opportunity, equity and respect for individual rights. Those factors are limits on government power, on which the United States ranks ninth out of the 11 countries in its income group; whether government operates with an absence of corruption (U.S. rank: 10); whether laws are clear, publicized and stable (U.S. rank: 9); whether society enjoys order and security (U.S. rank: 9); whether fundamental human rights are respected (U.S. rank: 10); whether laws are enforced in a fair manner (U.S. rank: 8); and whether an effective criminal justice system is in place (U.S. rank: 7). The United States scored highest—third among its 11 income group peers—for having an open government process.

Among the nations in the high income group, Sweden, the Netherlands and Austria ranked highest on most of the rule of law factors. Japan and Singapore also scored at the top on some factors. But because the Rule of Law Index is primarily statistical in nature, it does not offer extensive analysis of these patterns. "While the Index is helpful to tracking the 'temperature" of the rule of law situation in the countries under study," states the report issued today, "it is not powerful enough to provide a full diagnosis or to dictate concrete priorities for action. No single index can convey a full picture of a country's situation. Rule of law analysis requires a careful consideration of multiple dimensions—which vary from country to country—and a combination of sources, instruments, and methods."

Speaking at a briefing session in Washington, D.C., where the index was released, World Justice Project chair William C. Hubbard said, "Everyone in this room wants progress and a stronger rule of law, but we're not here with a one-size-fits-all approach to improving the rule of law." Rather, the purpose of the index is to produce data that help each country identify areas for possible reform, said Hubbard, a partner at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough in Columbia, S.C., who is immediate past chair of the ABA House of Delegates. The report also cautions against the temptation to use the index results as a simple ranking exercise. Representatives of the World Justice Project said the index is an important addition to rule of law studies, primarily because it seeks to measure specific elements that define the rule of law on the basis of how those elements actually apply to the real lives and experiences of people in various countries. "This kind of tool is most important," said Ellen Gracie Northfleet, the former chief justice of Brazil who sits on the World Justice Project's board of directors. "We can exchange our intuitive knowledge of what's wrong and what's right with measurable data." The report being released today is a more refined and complete version of the Rule of Law Index that was released in late 2009, although both versions are based on research conducted in the same 35 countries. The World Justice Project plans to update the Rule of Law Index on an annual basis, and expand it to cover 70 countries in 2011 and 100 countries—covering more than 95 percent of the world's population—by 2012.


angry as hell said...

At least in 3rd world countries they TELL you the system is corrupt and how much you have to pay. Here in the U.S. we make believe we're above corruption. What a friggin' joke. Two face robbing bastards, that's what we have in our so-called "court of law" system.

Anonymous said...

This is quite embarrassing for the United States of America. Awful.

Anonymous said...

Agree with the above comment.

How hard is it to read a law and apply it to facts? Isn't this what kids learn in kindergarten? To learn and follow rules? How is it that when these people go through 20+ years of education, take qualifying exams then have a couple of years of work experience, they suddenly forget this?

No matter what county you live in, there is an expectation that the laws will apply to everyone equally.

If you read any decision in any court of NYS, it makes no sense. There is no logic to any of it and they clearly seem to be pulling stuff out of their a**.

I'm just surprised that the u.s. ranks above all those banana republics.

A Pox On Them All said...

Eleventh was way too high.
The US ranks just above the courts in any dictatorship with the only difference being that US courts don't follow the rules of a single dictator, only the local despot's rules. Chief Justice Marshall summed up the respect US courts deserve in his decision,
"The Government of the United States has been emphatically termed a government of laws, and not of men. It will certainly cease to deserve this high appellation if the laws furnish no remedy for the violation of a vested legal right." Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803)
Just examine the cases reported on this site and you know our NY courts at all levels do not follow laws, but rather self-serving decisions spun out out by black robed vultures(even Justice Marshall might not use "men" for their description)in filthy disregard for law or decency. The US District courts and the local 2nd Circuit are rubber stamps for corruption.
You would have more hope under a dictator, who might on his whim, favor you; than in the US Courts where you, the outsider, are just more fodder for their trough.
On second thought, a dictator's courts would offer more hope and be an improvement and without hypocrisy.

Anonymous said...

If Lippman and Ramos were arrested maybe Sheldon would go and maybe just maybe someone may allow our State and our Statesmen to be
We the People, by the People
for the People!

instead all everyone does is fight from greed and corruption!

Anonymous said...

Published in the Bar Association Journal! This is a bad joke! There is no law or justice!

Anonymous said...

One of the biggest reason for this situation = corrupt (ALL) law firms - that is the basis of corruption - attorneys are corrupt, they can't help themselves - that's what they are taught by other corrupt attorneys in law school.

Anonymous said...

the US is way behind the whole world! I wonder why?

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