Printed on: Jan 23, 2021
While the specific functions court leaders perform and the environments in which they work varies significantly, fundamental and enduring principles serve as the foundation for the profession. Competencies in this module outline those principles.
Maintaining the public’s trust and confidence in the courts is integral to the credibility of the judicial branch. This trust cannot be assumed. The court must establish and nurture public trust through its core responsibility of resolving disputes. The court process must not only be just, it must-have the appearance of being just. Public perceptions of the court system are largely formed by the experiences of individual parties in individual cases, all looking to the court for prompt and fair resolution of their disputes. Guided by the principles of procedural fairness, courts can enhance public trust and confidence by treating every party — plaintiffs, victims and defendants alike — with dignity and respect, and explaining the court process and court rulings in a timely matter. Trust and confidence are further enhanced through the transparent and consistent application of court procedures, timely resolution of court cases and providing public information regarding the court processes, court services and mechanisms for accessing them.
Court leaders help promote and maintain public trust and confidence by creating organizational cultures that foster integrity, transparency and accountability for court processes and operations.
The degree to which the judicial branch can promote the rule of law and protect individual rights is, in large part, determined by the respect of the public for its authority. As noted above, court leaders should strive to promote public trust and confidence in courts by creating and promoting an organizational culture that fosters integrity, transparency and accountability for all court processes and proceedings.
Ensuring public trust and confidence in the court, regardless of the court’s jurisdiction and/or environment in which it functions, requires all court leaders to carry out their function(s) in a manner that promotes the following:
The most fundamental aspect of court leadership is an understanding of the purposes and responsibilities of the court and providing the leadership to ensure that these continuously guide court operations, policies, and procedures. Pursuant to the judicial authority granted in the United States Constitution and the constitutions of states and territories and applicable laws, the primary responsibility of the judicial branch is to provide an impartial forum for the resolution of disputes. This ensures the rule of law and protection of individual rights. Over time, this fundamental responsibility of the judicial branch has been expanded to encompass other areas of importance, including but not limited to the following:
The longstanding and widely accepted “purposes of courts” in carrying out these responsibilities are the following: 2
Over time, these fundamental purposes of the courts expanded to include other areas of emphasis, including the following:
These fundamental purposes and responsibilities of courts apply regardless of the specific jurisdiction in which a court functions and provide both the philosophical and legal framework for the daily work of all court leaders. They also delineate the essential differences between the role court leaders and those professionals who work in other public sector entities.
Purposes and responsibilities of courts should never be confused with efficiency or even the constitutional means of the separation of powers, judicial independence, and the inherent powers of the courts. Courts exist to do justice, to guarantee liberty, to enhance social order, to resolve disputes, to maintain rule of law, to provide for equal protection, and to ensure due process of law. They exist so the equality of individuals and the government is reality rather than empty rhetoric.
Carrying out the fundamental purposes and responsibilities of a court requires all court leaders, regardless of their specific position, to ensure their respective courts:
Recognizing that court leaders perform diverse functions in an array of environments, the following are goals that court professionals should aspire to meet:
© 2021 National Association for Court Management.