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December 04, 2022

Judicial Independence Monitor Toolkit


Judicial independence is critical to the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative’s goal of promoting access to justice and strengthening rule of law around the globe. The independence of the judges and the judiciary, including administrators and staff, is fundamental to ensuring the law is equally applied to all persons and organizations. Genuine independence is also crucial to the systems of checks and balances necessary to hold governments accountable.

It is only when judges and all those involved in the judicial process are free from undue influence—whether from other branches of the government, companies, or individuals—that they can make decisions based solely on the law and evidence. Perceptions of independence are also essential to establish trust in the judicial process. If people do not have faith in the judiciary to resolve conflicts in accordance with the law, they are less likely to use it, leading to extra-legal resolutions that undermine the rule of law. In an era of progressively polarized and sensationalistic media, these types of resolutions are a challenge to legal systems around the globe.

The importance of judicial independence is reflected in its incorporation into major international treaties and laws including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the American Convention on Human Rights, and ASEAN Human Rights Declaration. Judicial independence is also included as a metric in indexes assessing everything from economic competitiveness to governance, corruption, and rule of law to human rights. However, these indexes address judicial independence in general and do not look at the full scope of what judicial independence encompasses. To help inform this discussion and our understanding, ABA ROLI has developed the Judicial Independence Monitor, a toolkit to assess vulnerabilities to judicial independence in a given jurisdiction, along three broad categories:

  1. Internal independence, how the judiciary governs itself
  2. External independence, from undue influence from other branches of government

  3. Transparency, the degree to which the judiciary is perceived as independent.

The Judicial Independence Monitor is a toolkit designed to be used by experts, be they in civil society, academia, government, or private sector, to conduct an assessment to inform their work on policy reform. The analysis offered by the Judicial Independence Monitor will help inform existing indexes through a more comprehensive analysis of judicial independence, subsequently becoming part of the larger feedback loop that already exists in assessing political and governance systems globally.

Download the Report