Ultimately effective court leadership requires ethical actions. Court leaders must be ethical in order preserve the public’s trust and confidence for the judiciary and the value of rule of law. At a minimum court leaders must uphold the ethical standards demanded of the citizens, but court leaders must also maintain an even higher standard demanded of them as stewards of the judicial process and the institution of the courts. Ethics is the expression of a personal commitment to the principles of citizenship and justice; it is not a tool by which we measure others. Ethics demonstrates the court leaders’ pledge; the pledge to court staff, to the judges, to other justice community leaders, and to the public that the courts serve.

Relevance

It is oft repeated that judicial branch service is a public trust, which court professionals strive to sustain. The citizens determine the value of the courts; it is up to the court leader to demonstrate why citizens should value the courts. The ethics of court leaders permeates all the other components of The Core. Ethics is the basis that supports the fundamental purposes and responsibilities of courts as a co–equal branch of government. It is the framework in which court leaders demonstrate leadership of others, project the plans and vision of the future, make known the courts’ message to the community, manage caseflow and workflow evenly and equitably, and hold court leaders and the courts accountable as part of the fabric of society.

Application

Ethical court leaders should be able to understand and competently promote (through their own behavior) the following concepts:

  • Acting appropriately and projecting the appearance of acting appropriately in performing court administrative work.
    • Working diligently, efficiently, equitably, thoroughly, courteously, honestly, truthfully, impartially, without bias or prejudice, and with transparency
    • Carrying out properly issued court orders and rules
    • Staying within a court professional’s authority, and not using one’s position to secure unwarranted privileges or dispense favors
    • Resisting improper influences from business, family, position, party, and friends, or interests that might impair one’s impartiality
    • Avoiding activities that might impugn the dignity of the court
    • Being cognizant of the rights of those in protected classes
    • Treating co-workers and all those who interact with the court with dignity, respect and courtesy
    • Notifying appropriate authorities whenever oneself, one’s family, or one’s friends, are a party in a court action
    • Comprehensively answering questions involving standard court procedures, while carefully avoiding giving legal advice
    • Recruiting, selecting, and advancing staff based on work–related factors, and not favoritism
    • Avoiding (whenever possible) directly supervising family members, and avoiding opportunities to influence a family member’s employment or promotion
    • Reporting attempts to compel one to violate these canons
    • Refusing to inappropriately destroy, alter, falsify, mutilate, or backdate court records; ensuring that appropriate entries are made;
    • Maintaining court confidentialities, but properly providing confidential information to authorized individuals
    • Applying good judgment in weighing the credibility of Internet data
    • Treating personal information with the discretion one would want others to use if placed in a similar situation
    • Using the court’s resources, property, and funds judiciously as prescribed.
  • Minimizing conflicts of interest in one’s official position
    • Avoiding outside employment, business activities, even subsequent employment and business activities that reflect poorly on the judiciary and on one’s own professionalism, even after leaving the court;
    • Notifying court authorities before accepting work or business opportunities outside the court;
    • Neither asking for nor accepting compensation beyond that received in the course of public employment;
    • Engaging in outside employment only as it does not conflict with the performance of one’s official responsibilities or violate this code;
    • Disclosing financial interests and dealings required by law, rule, or regulation.
    • Acting appropriately regarding political activity
    • Retaining the right to vote, while limiting political activity to after business hours and only using non–court resources;Unless campaigning for one’s own elected position taking unpaid leave to run for office.
  • Acting appropriately regarding political activity
    • Unless campaigning for one’s own elected position taking unpaid leave to run for office.
    • Retaining the right to vote, while limiting political activity to after business hours and only using non–court resources;