Author Suggests ‘Justice Index’ To Rate Efficiency Of Courts


In a New York Times commentary, author Amy Bach suggests creation of a quantitative “justice index” to rate the efficiency of local courts. She writes, “People use statistics on hospitals, schools and other public services to decide where to live or how to vote. But while millions of Americans deal with their local criminal courts as defendants and victims each year, there is no comparable way to assess a judicial system and determine how well it provides basic legal services. This lack of data has a corrosive effect: without public awareness of a court system's strengths and weaknesses, inefficiencies and civil liberties violations are never remedied.”

Bach, a Rochester, N.Y., attorney, is the author of “Ordinary Injustice: How America Holds Court.” She suggests the index begin with data from the country’s 25 most populous counties. She writes, “Next, a panel of lawyers, community representatives, statisticians and law professors would establish standards for the measurements..The information would be analyzed by a nonprofit organization, then posted to a Web site in a ranked order and in terms clear enough for the public to understand. Users would be able to shuffle the rankings by focusing on data related to specific areas like civil liberties or crime reduction, in the same way college applicants can look at which schools are best for student life or athletics. Once the data for those 25 counties has been assembled, smaller counties could gather their numbers using a detailed do-it-yourself kit from the coordinating organization.”

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