US falls out of top 20 in Rule of Law Index, while global declines continue

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For the first time, the United States fell out of the top 20 countries for adherence to the rule of law in an index compiled by the World Justice Project.

The United States dropped to No. 21 in the index, while Spain moved in to the top 20, according to press releases here and here and a summary here. The index is based on national surveys of more than 130,000 households and 4,000 legal practitioners and experts around the world.

Denmark had the best score, followed by Norway and Finland.

The index is based on eight factors: constraints on government power, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice, and criminal justice.

The factors help measure countries’ progress in how effectively their justice systems operate.

In rankings based on each individual factor, the United States was ranked No. 13 for open government, No. 19 for absence of corruption and No. 20 for regulatory enforcement. Its lowest individual rank was No. 36 for civil justice. (The breakdown is at page 156 of the report.)

The report considers seven measures of civil justice. The United States had lower scores for absence of discrimination and accessibility.

Globally, the index shows a decline in the rule of law. “More countries declined than improved in overall rule of law performance for a third year in a row, continuing a negative slide toward weakening and stagnating rule of law around the world,” the World Justice Project said in a summary.

Among 128 countries on the index, 54 had declines in the area of fundamental rights, 52 had declines in constraints on government powers, and 51 had declines had declines in absence of corruption.

Those same three factors also declined the most during a five-year period.

Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of the World Justice Project, said in a press release that the report shows “a steady erosion” in accountable governance affecting democracies and dictators.

“This is the third year running that our data has shown the rule of law in retreat globally, including in traditionally strong performers that have served as good examples and advocates for these norms around the world,” Andersen said. “This leadership vacuum is contributing to the spreading rule of law malaise.”

Countries with the biggest declines in rule of law since last year were Cameroon, largely because of a decline in order and security and fundamental rights, and Iran, largely because of lower scores for criminal justice.

Over the last five years, the country with the largest average annual percentage drop in rule of law was Egypt, followed by Venezuela and Cambodia

Source:Debra Cassens Weiss (abajournal.com)