The Judicial Reform Index (JRI) is an innovative tool developed by the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) to assess judicial reform and judicial independence in emerging democracies and transitioning states. It offers international organizations, development agencies, technical legal assistance providers and local reformers a reliable means to target judicial reform programs and monitor progress towards establishing more accountable, effective and independent judiciaries.
The JRI was conceptualized and designed on the basis of comparative legal traditions as well as international standards set forth in the U.N. Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, the Council of Europe Recommendation on Independence of Judges, the European Charter on the Statute for Judges, and the International Bar Association Minimum Standards for Judicial Independence.
Because the JRI relies on international standards, it is a global tool that can be implemented in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, in addition to Europe and Eurasia, where the ABA ROLI has used the JRI to assess judiciaries in 20 countries since 2001.
The JRI evaluates judicial reform and judicial independence through a prism of 30 indicators or factors, each of which sets forth particular standards related to the following topics: quality, education and diversity of judges; judicial powers; financial resources; structural safeguards; transparency and judicial efficiency. These factors are evaluated by an assessment team on the basis of information gathered by conducting interviews with 35 or more key informants and through an in-depth analysis and discussion of a country's legal framework on the judiciary.
Results of the 30 individual evaluations are collected in a standardized JRI country assessment report. Following each factor statement, a correlation value is identified and a brief summary describing the basis for this conclusion is provided. A more in-depth analysis of the issues, local conditions, relevant legal provisions and mechanisms present or lacking in a country's judicial system then follows.
The data collected in the JRI assessment process has enabled the ABA ROLI to better understand important elements in the process of judicial reform and target its technical assistance programming accordingly. In addition to facilitating strategic planning, the JRI can be used to monitor judicial reform over time and systematically catalogue problems and their solutions.
The JRI also provides a platform for an unprecedented level of comparative legal research and analysis that may be used to inform a variety of audiences about the state of judicial affairs in transitioning states and emerging democracies. As such, it is well suited to identifying and transferring specialized knowledge and lessons learned.