Your ABA

World Justice Project compiles 2016 Rule of Law Index

  • Print.

The ABA also has called for greater pro bono efforts by lawyers, and a task force has called for more creative approaches to providing legal services, including the increased use of technology and even the possibility of allowing nonlawyers to provide certain legal services. Hubbard notes that three-quarters of civil cases in state courts involve at least one self-represented party.

“Until we can close that gap, we’re not going to be able to lead the world in the rule of law,” says Hubbard, who is a partner at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough in Columbia, South Carolina. Moreover, he says, “there is lots of room for improvement in the criminal justice system on a whole host of issues.”

But the overall picture the index presents about the rule of law in the U.S. is not all bleak, Hubbard and Botero say.

The data indicates that this country performs well in areas such as constraints on government power, regulatory enforcement, open government and absence of corruption—a severe obstacle to effective rule of law in many nations.

“The fundamentals are very strong in the United States,” Botero says, “and recent events show the system of checks and balances is working as it should.”

The current Rule of Law Index is based on data collected in October 2016, before the November elections. Botero says the 2017 index may show trends resulting from the election outcome more clearly.


The index is playing an increasingly important role in the international dialogue about rule of law issues, Botero and Hubbard say. “You can’t solve a problem if you can’t measure it,” Hubbard says. “This is the most comprehensive rule of law measurement in existence—the most com-prehensive and in-depth.”

The WJP is in the process of expanding its efforts. In 2015, the project launched an open government index, and it recently started an environmental rule of law index in conjunction with the ABA Section of Environment, Energy and Resources.

A section task force helped develop the questionnaire that went to five pilot countries—Argentina, Colombia, Germany, Japan and Kenya—and provided contact with lawyers who would participate, says task force member Claudia Rast, a shareholder at Butzel Long in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The section also has provided funding, she says.

The section has been discussing this kind of project with the WJP since 2009, Rast says. “The Rule of Law Index itself is very helpful for comparing and evaluating rule of law efforts in various countries,” she says, “but we thought it was important to seek to meet those goals in the environmental field.”

In Hubbard’s view, this collaboration reflects the close relationship between the World Justice Project and the ABA, and he credits Neukom for having the vision to launch the project. “This has been one of the ABA’s great success stories,” Hubbard says. “This is an initiative the ABA should look proudly on as the founding entity.”


Rule of Law Rankings

The 20 highest-ranking nations (out of 113) are shown, based on their overall scores, along with a representative sample of other countries around the world. Each country’s numerical score is based on a scale of 0.00 (lowest adherence to the rule of law) to 1.00 (highest adherence). The 2016 edition of the Rule of Law Index accounts for some 95 percent of the world’s population, and the data was collected in October 2016.

New Zealand80.83
United Kingdom100.81
Hong Kong SAR, China 160.77
Czech Republic170.75
United States180.74
Republic of Korea190.73
South Africa430.59

The overall rankings are based on how well each country performs on eight specific factors. Below is the score and global ranking for the United States on each of those factors.

Constraints on government powers130.81
Absence of corruption200.73
Open government120.78
Fundamental rights210.75
Order and security310.80
Regulatory enforcement190.71
Civil justice280.65
Criminal justice220.68

This article appeared in the November 2017 issue of the ABA Journal with the headline "Measuring Justice: Rule of Law Index helps compare strengths and weaknesses of countries’ legal systems."

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.