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The panel of speakers included Dr. Alejandro Ponce, Professor Jeffrey B. Ritter, and Ana S. Ayala. Marilyn Raisch from the Georgetown University Law Center's John Wolff International & Comparative Law Library moderated. (Ms. Ayala, an Institute Associate, stepped in at the last minute to represent the O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown Law as Mr. Oscar A. Cabrera was unable to make it.) Dr. Ponce is the Chief Research Officer of the World Justice Project (WJP). He is one of the original designers and a lead author of the WJP Rule of Law Index. He started the program off by describing the role of the WSJ and explaining the data collection and methodology behind the WJP's Rule of Law Index (worldjusticeproject.org/rule-of-law-index) more specifically. Attendees learned the WJP became an independent non-profit organization in 2009 after it was originally founded with support from the ABA in 2006. Its mission focuses on advancing the rule of law around the world.
The WJP Rule of Law Index is an impressive tool, which measures how the rule of law is experienced in the daily lives of citizens in 99 countries around the world. It is based on 100,000 surveys worldwide and offers a detailed picture of the extent to which countries adhere to the rule of law. As defined by the WJP, the rule of law comprises four universal principles: 1) accountability of government officials and agents, 2) laws are clear, publicized, stable and protect fundamental rights for all citizens, 3) enactment, administration and enforcement is accessible, fair, and efficient, and 4) justice is delivered equitably and in a predictable, timely and ethical manner. These broad and more amorphous principles are further refined on a more granular level in the WJP Rule of Law Index's 47 indicators organized around several themes, including absence of corruption, civil and criminal justice. Dr. Ponce demonstrated the nimble manner with which this data can be manipulated not only for comparative purposes across countries and regions, but also the visual representations of the data (e.g., spider graphs, tables).
Professor Jeffrey B. Ritter teaches at Georgetown and has practiced and taught all over the world. His area of expertise is in digital law and the innovative use of mind maps as a tool to clarify complex structures in the law -- particularly multicultural and multi-system compliance efforts. He was especially interested in improving traditional legal instruction by integrating these tools into the classroom more explicitly. As he noted, at least 70% of students are visual learners and would benefit from the manipulation of data and legal principles in this manner. Indeed, images are processed 60,000 times faster than text alone. These pedagogical principles are similarly effective in practice and are potentially powerful tools to demonstrate relationships in a clear and efficient manner.
Finally, Ms. Ayala wrapped up the program by highlighting the work of the O'Neill Institute's Global Health and Human Rights Database (www.globalhealthrights.org). Like the WJP, this database is freely available online and includes legal materials from around the world. The scope, however, is a focused on health and the human rights. The database provides a fully searchable, indexed and interactive collection of cases, constitutions, and international instruments. The judgments are collected from domestic, regional, and international bodies. Every effort is made to include English translations of the materials when they are available. The database should be a useful starting place and resource for both scholars and practitioners -- particularly empirical research and comparative legal analysis related to health.
The panelists concluded by encouraging attendees to take advantage of the numerous tools and innovations developing in data visualization and mind mapping. Though facility and comfort with these tools may vary, the enthusiasm and progress made by current proponents suggest that access and manipulation of data will only improve over time.
Kristina Alayan is the Foreign & International Law Librarian and Lecturing Fellow at Duke University School of Law.