You've heard of the "rule of law," but do you really know what it is?

Posted on 09-27-2013 by
Tags: rule of law , Trending News & Topics

 In this day and age, we so often “want to know” but are “afraid to ask.”  Terminology changes so quickly, and when others are using language that they don’t even understand, you can’t help but just nod and act like you get it. What the heck’s a “chiplet” (can I eat it?), and should I be afraid of the “the work-life merge?”

While not a new term, I’ve never quite understood “rule of law.” It was never addressed in law school, and on my own, I’ve developed only a vague idea about it. Recently, LexisNexis presented its inaugural LexisNexis Rule of Law Award to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. This challenged me to dig deeper and to finally understand “rule of law”

The World Justice Project defines “rule of law” as “a system in which the following four universal principles are upheld:

1. The government and its officials and agents as well as individuals and private entities are accountable under the law.

2. The laws are clear, publicized, stable and just, are applied evenly, and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property.

3. The process by which the laws are enacted, administered and enforced is accessible, fair and efficient.

4. Justice is delivered timely by competent, ethical, and independent representatives and neutrals who are of sufficient number, have adequate resources, and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve."

UN Rule of Law defines it as:

a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. It requires, as well, measures to ensure adherence to the principles of supremacy of law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness and procedural and legal transparency.

For a deeper diver, the ABA has an educational document that looks to answer “What is the rule of law?” It provides a history of the rule of law and several important quotes surrounding the rule of law.  

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