Printed on: Jan 17, 2021
These Competencies relate to both daily and long-term functions court leaders must perform, either individually or in collaboration with others. Not all court leaders will individually perform all of the functions associated with these Competencies but they should be aware of their relevance, the key skills they entail and their application, as appropriate, to their specific roles in the courts.
Caseflow Management is the process by which courts carry out their primary function of moving cases from filing to disposition. The management of caseflow is critical because it helps guarantee every litigant receives procedural due process and equal protection. Caseflow Management involves the organization and coordination of personnel and other resources to promote the fair and timely resolution of all cases filed. Properly understood, caseflow management is the heart of court management.
Workflow Management involves the coordination and support of all tasks, procedures, resources (human and other) necessary to guarantee the work of the court is conducted efficiently and consistent with the court’s purposes and responsibilities. While Workflow Management includes Caseflow Management, it also includes all tasks and functions necessary for the court to operate as an organization.
To manage effective court caseflow and workflow systems, court leaders require a range of management functions and skills, discussed below. The framework within which court leaders perform these functions relies on:
Most court management staff are involved, to varying degrees, in the court’s caseflow and workflow systems. While specific function(s) and responsibilities may vary, court leaders should have a number of key analytic and communication skills. In particular, court leaders should be able to:
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 –
Programs and Special Services –
Access and Direct Services –
Infrastructure and Support –
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:
One of the court leaders’ key roles is communication with a wide range of audiences to enhance the public’s understanding of the court process and the role of the courts in preserving the rule of law and protecting individual rights. As has been stressed in throughout the Core Competencies, the rule of law is the foundation of a civilized society and courts are the institutions charged with safeguarding this fundamental principle. Unfortunately, courts and court processes are often not well understood. Without the public’s understanding of the court and its processes, the public’s trust and confidence in the court can be but a distant goal and the primacy and authority of courts can be eroded. As such, court leaders must continually provide information to the public regarding the court’s functions and services.
The court leader will need to develop multiple methods to regularly deliver information about the court to the public. Critical to these methods is the development of on-going relationships with the media so they are familiar with the court process and are in a position to regularly provide positive media coverage of the court, its operations and its key initiatives. Such communications should occur both routinely and during times of crisis. Whether these communications are addressing routine court matters or special crises, it is very important that the court speak with one voice. To be effective at providing public information, court leaders need to communicate what courts do to the wide range of audiences with which it needs to connect, using a variety of communication methods tailored to the nature of the message being conveyed and audience targeted. The court leader’s overall goal for these communications should focus on promoting the public’s understanding of the role of the court to preserve the rule of law, and its critical role in safeguarding the fundamental constitutional and legal rights of all individuals.
Providing public information requires court leaders to demonstrate competency in a variety of skills and activities, taking into account the wide range of contexts in which court leaders work. Specifically, courts leaders should be able to:
A key function for the court leader is the assurance of excellent court performance by actively leading judicial branch education in their courts. Because judicial branch education helps courts maintain the balance between a continually evolving operational environment and the enduring principles and predictable processes of the court, it cannot be remedial and limited to training alone. Rather educational development must be strategic and involve education, training, and development.
The effective court leader ensures that education, training, and development are recognized as essential and works to build a culture within the court to support it. This means excellence in programming; demonstrable results, both inside and outside the courts; and reliable and consistent funding.
To succeed in fostering a well-educated court, the court leader should strive to ensure that education, training, and development be:
Court leaders must actively lead and support judicial branch education in their courts. Education, training and development are not pleasurable diversions from daily routines, training for the sake of training, or a luxury. Court leaders are also critical in ensuring that transfer of education occurs by supporting staff who attend training and then return to the workplace and implement what they learned.
The target audience is diverse in education, experience, professional orientation, age, gender and race. Courts have employees who remain with the court their whole career. They also have employees who come and go quickly. When education and training and human resources are aligned, the court is better able to identify, develop and retain its best employees. When talented staff leave the court, competent replacements take their place or are recruited from the outside. This ensures that the most promising people find job satisfaction and acceptable career paths in specific trial courts and state court systems or in the judicial administration profession generally. While judicial branch education supports succession planning, cross-jurisdictional movement of talented staff benefits all courts through organizational learning across all levels of local, state and federal courts. When appropriate, judges and staff should be educated and trained together, especially at the local level. This demonstrates that the judicial and justice system are interdependent; the issues are systemic.
To contribute to the development of individuals, courts and the court management profession, judicial branch education must:
To carry out their fundamental purposes and responsibilities, courts must have the human talent to achieve the court’s mission and vision. The court leader must work every day to secure, manage, educate, and motivate court staff. To do this, the court leader should have specific, technical expertise and knowledge of relevant laws, legal rulings and policies relating to day-to-day operations along with a host of human resource related skills and capabilities.
The court leader, who effectively manages and motivates the workforce, should possess the skills and capabilities necessary for job analysis and classification; performance management; workforce planning; professional staff development; development and updating of compensation and benefit plans; risk management; employee relations; and organizational change management. In short, the competent court leader secures the right people with the right skills.
The court leader performing functions relating to the management, development and motivation of the court workforce, should be able to competently:
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.
Ethical court leaders should be able to understand and competently promote (through their own behavior) the following concepts:
Court leaders have a dual role in both securing resources for court operations and effectively managing those resources. All courts, regardless of size or jurisdiction, function as co-equal branches of government that must work transparently and collaboratively with legislative and executive branches to secure, manage and account for the resources they need. These resources include the people, funding, equipment, technology and supplies necessary to operate the court.
Court leaders need to work across many different levels and branches of government for funding and facilities to secure resources from various sources. The budgets for state, local and tribal courts, as well as their resources, generally rely on appropriations from state and local funding sources, including legislative and executive branch resources. Many courts also draw on state and federal grant funds. Federal courts, on the other hand, generally derive their resources through a more focused, single source budget process.
For courts to have the funding, equipment and resources necessary to operate, court leaders must perform a variety of complex functions and establish/manage numerous relationships. In addition, court leaders must be able to manage the court’s budget, resources and facilities constantly and be able to respond quickly to developments outside of its control.
Managing the court’s budget and resources often involves multiple staff performing interrelated functions. Regardless of the particular court environment in which court leaders function, competency in managing the court budget and resources should reflect a court leader’s ability to:
Being a good manager means being able to monitor performance–to identify what is working well and what is not. The judiciary relies on this aspect of court management, as does the public, to ensure optimum court performance. Ensuring accountability, measuring performance and applying performance measures to court practices are not new concepts. This commitment to delivering fair and speedy justice and improving accountability to the public dates back to the 1970s with the publication of the American Bar Association Time Standards (1976) 8 and the COSCA Time Standards (1983). 9 Over the last several decades, a number of tools have been developed and refined to help court leaders measure and manage performance, such as the Trial Court Performance Standards (1990); 10 Appellate Court Performance Measures (2009); 11 CourTools (2005); 12 the High Performance Court Framework (2010); 13 and the Principles for Judicial Administration (2012). 14 These documents provide a solid foundation for the court community to help court leaders both measure and manage performance. However, tools alone are simply that–tools–court leaders must be able to apply the tools skillfully to move from performance measurement to performance management.
In terms of court operations and services, what is measured and how it is measured depends on the specific context and environment in which a court operates. Nevertheless, to effectively measure and manage performance, court leaders, regardless of their specific function(s) or environments, should work to achieve the competency in:
Court leaders who are effective at measuring and managing performance should be able to:
© 2021 National Association for Court Management.