LAW DAY: U.S. Now Trails 20 Other Countries in Rule of Law

By 
Scott Stewart
The Daily Record

The rule of law is on the decline internationally, while the United States has been slowly losing ground to a handful of other countries — knocking it out of the top 20 countries for the rule of law last March, just around the beginning of the pandemic, according to an analysis from the World Justice Project, which publishes the Rule of Law Index.

Evidence suggests that the rule of law has been further eroded by the pandemic, which has loosened constraints on government power, enabled the silencing of opposition figures and allowed for discriminatory enforcement measures, according to the Brookings Institution.

“This matters because the rule of law is the essential foundation for ensuring accountability of both government and private actors, just laws that protect fundamental rights, open government, and accessible justice,” wrote Ted Piccone, a nonresident senior fellow at Brookings, which describes itself as an independent think tank.

The World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index, which was last released in March 2020 and will be updated in October 2021, is based on a survey of more than 130,000 households and 4,000 legal practitioners and experts across the world.

“What we are witnessing is a steady erosion in core dimensions of accountable governance affecting democracies and dictatorships alike,” WJP Executive Director Elizabeth Andersen said in a news release. “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. This leadership vacuum is contributing to the spreading rule of law malaise.”

The United States has slipped to No. 21 globally. The index evaluations countries on eight factors, providing subrankings for each of them. The U.S. scores, out of 128 countries, are:

• Constraints on Government Powers: 22th

• Absence of Corruption: 19th

• Open Government: 13th

• Fundamental Rights: 26th

• Order and Security: 28th

• Regulatory Enforcement: 20th

• Civil Justice: 36th

• Criminal Justice: 22nd

Denmark, Norway, and Finland topped the rankings in 2020. Venezuela, Cambodia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo had the lowest overall rule of law scores.

The WJP rankings noted a significant decline in the rule of law in both in Egypt and Poland.

Egypt saw major protests in September 2019 accusing government and military authorities of corruption, prompting the arrest of many demonstrators, lawyers and activists. The government also restricted social media and foreign news outlets, further consolidating power.

Poland has undergone a serious deterioration in the rule of law since the nationalist Law and Justice Party took control, according to the European Parliament. The Polish government has been under investigation for years by European authorities. Just last week, a controversial disciplinary body within Poland’s Supreme Court rejected a prosecutor’s request to arrest a judge who has become a symbol of resistance for those who believe judicial independence is threatened in the country. Government critics believe the charges were intended to warn other judges to fall in line with the conservative government’s interests or be punished.

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