Courts are complex organizations, which are comprised of an array of departments, units and functions that need to be maintained on an on-going basis to support court operations. Although court leaders may not need to perform all of the various functions, organizational and management competencies should be developed to support whatever functions may be required.


Court leaders must manage and support complex environments which are comprised of an array of departments, units and functions that need to be maintained on an on-going basis to support court operations. The range and nature of these functions and activities varies significantly, depending on court jurisdiction (e.g., appellate, general, limited, administrative), whether the court is federal, state, local or tribal; and the unique way(s) individual courts are organized and operate.

In addition to proficiency in the functional areas addressed in other Competencies, court leaders need to be prepared to deal with many other functions and services courts provide on a regular basis, both planned and at times unexpected.  To do this, court leaders may need to support a wide range of services and activities that are essential to carrying out the functions and mission of most courts, recognizing that some functions may vary, depending upon the jurisdiction of the court (e.g., juror management, records management, and evidence management).

The following is a list — certainly not exhaustive — of the range of essential court functions within the operations of the court that court leaders will likely manage and frequently perform:

Services Required by U.S. Constitution or Federal Regulations –

  • Jury Functions — preparing annual master lists, summonsing and notifying prospective jurors, scheduling and selecting jurors for trials, handling requests for extensions and excusal, managing automated jury management systems, ensuring randomness in selection of jurors, processing payments, evaluating jury yield and utilizing and providing comfortable facilities for hosting jurors. 1
  • Indigent Defense Services — either exercising primary appointment responsibility or limited responsibility for conflict counsel.
  • Foreign Language Resources — consistent with statutes and federal Limited English Proficiency (LEP) requirements, including assigning interpreters, maintaining lists of qualified interpreters in multiple languages and implementing a Language Access plan.
  • Making the Verbatim Record — making of the record of court proceedings is a core function of courts.  The official record is not only the basis of appeals but also a means of reviewing all that transpires in the courtroom including their assignment, quality monitoring and preparation of transcripts. A valuable resource is NACM’s The Making the Verbatim Record Guide.

Programs and Special Services –

  • Probation Services (if a division of the court) — consisting of a variety of court (judge) ordered actions under the direction of a discreet probation function. Probation related services may be provided for adult or juvenile offenders, and oversight or monitoring functions may also pertain to non-criminal cases.
  • Problem-solving courts and Specialty Dockets — seeking to promote outcomes that will benefit not only the offender, but the victim and society as well using collaborate, innovative approaches to addressing offenders’ problems, including drug abuse, mental illness, and domestic violence.
  • Appropriate Dispute Resolution (ADR) services — resolving cases or disputes without a trial by the process most suitable for the dispute (which could be litigation). ADR processes other than litigation may be used in virtually all types of cases – civil, criminal, family court, juvenile, misdemeanor, and traffic cases.
  • Special Court Ordered Services — appointing outside professional experts for psychological assessments, discovery and special masters, forensic accountants and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).

Access and Direct Services –

  • Court User Services
    • Family court services.
    • Self-help services.
    • Law libraries.
    • Electronic legal research services.
    • Facilities for filing complaints such as through an Ombudsman.
  • Access for Persons with Disabilities — ensuring that all qualified individuals with disabilities enjoy the same opportunities that are available to persons without disabilities. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.
  • Courtroom Operations — overseeing courtroom clerical staff; recording the minutes of court proceedings; issuing court rulings, notices and forms; assigning and training staff; ensuring minutes are captured and recorded; processing documents, filings and exhibits presented in court; issuing court orders; operating automated case management, recording systems and other technologies, and interacting with the court’s customers.
  • Records — establishing records management policies and overseeing/managing the records of the court, including case, financial, and personnel records, in a manner that is consistent with statutes related to privacy, security, and retention. 
  • Filings, Fines, Fees and Exhibits — accepting, processing, and managing case related filings, fee collection, records, and exhibits.

Infrastructure and Support –

  • Information Technology — procuring, developing, managing and implementing to plan for and manage technology applications in the court focusing on (1) developing and implementing a vision for the application of technology; (2) addressing technology governance, planning and policy issues; (3) conducting business practice analysis/workflow engineering and integrating technology with court processes and user needs; (4) fiscal management; (5) managing technology projects; (6) data management and security; and (7) ensuring accountability of systems.
  • Continuity of Operations Plans (COOP) — preparing for and planning for recovery when court operations are compromised or at risk of being compromised by real or potential threats.  Court leaders may likely be the principal planners, conveners, facilitators, delegators and communicators in their jurisdiction. Judges, court staff and representatives from other justice system agencies may look to the court leader(s) to (1) provide leadership and ensure the continued operation of the court; (2) serve as the source of critical information about contingency plans; and (3) provide key details regarding operations of the court when emergency strikes.
  • Facilities Management — commitment to maintaining a safe, secure, accessible, well-planned and dignified environment for court operations and doing so in a manner which adopts best practices and inspires public confidence.  The success of any facilities management program depends upon several factors that include: 1) The development of a strategic planning process, 2) Good communication among the stakeholders and the public, 3) Development of consensus, and 4) Strong project management.
  • Security — maintaining a free-and-open access to justice court through the development and implementation of proper court security procedures, processes and infrastructure to protect people, property, and information while maintaining the integrity of the judicial process.


Not all court leaders will perform all of the functions listed above, and there are undoubtedly additional functions not listed that court leaders may be called upon to perform. Similarly, the range of essential components of court operations and services court leaders will need to perform varies significantly with the level, jurisdiction and organization of the court in which they serve, and are likely change over time. As such, court leaders should develop competencies in more organizational and managerial skills overall to support the other essential components of court operations, with a particular focus on:

  • Identification of the courts’ functional requirements to perform and manage daily operations, the personnel and other support required and the skills and resources necessary to ensure that the functions are effectively performed, managed and monitored.
  • Development and management of contracts, including the procurement and oversight of services provided by outside entities and sole practitioners, (e.g., interpreters, mental health service providers, etc.) as required, to perform these other essential components of a court’s operation and mission.
  • Continual application of the requirements of statutes, court rules, policies and procedures to court operational practices to guarantee all court functions and services are carried out competently, and are consistent with constitutional, statutory and other requirements and evidence-based standards of performance.
  • Recognition of and response to demographic and other trends that affect the need for court services, including interpreters and legal assistance.


  1. Link to CourTools, Measure 8