Purposes and Responsibilities of Courts
Why Courts Exist
Curriculum Guideline One
While the Purposes and Responsibilities of Courts Core Competency requires knowledge of and reflection upon theoretic concepts, their history. and development over time, this competency is practical. The Purposes and Responsibilities Competency gives meaning to, in fact properly grounds, day-to-day judicial administration and the other nine Core Competencies. Absent knowledge of the judiciary’s enduring purposes and continuing responsibilities, court leaders, both judicial and managerial, can lose their way as they and their court drift among seemingly unrelated issues and demands.
The need for an impartial and independent judiciary is rooted in the human condition. Life is not or does not always seem to be fair. Neither individuals, corporations, their officers, nor the government always do the right, or even the legally correct, thing. Even when they play by the rules, or honestly think they do, there are conflicts and disagreements about legal obligations, rights, and wrongs. When cases are moved from filing to disposition in such a way to ensure, among other court purposes, individual justice in individual cases and the appearance of individual justice in individual cases -- consistency and predictability in the application of law and procedural rules -- courts resolve ever present private and public conflicts.
Achieving independence and impartiality is, therefore, as complicated as society and as simple as legally right and legally wrong. Pushes and pulls flow from the requirements of the adversarial process balanced against the strength of informal, consensual dispute resolution. Courts reinforce the authority of the state and the legitimate use of force and protect individuals against the arbitrary use of governmental power. The tension between individual freedom and social order is perpetual. First rate court leaders understand there is almost never one truth or one best way to proceed. They thrive on ambiguity and opposite but true mandates. Accomplished judicial administration is an uncanny marriage of incompatibles, a fusion of contradictions.
Court leaders respect the other branches and their leaders because, in our compound republic, each of the branches is necessary in and of itself and acts as a check and balance on the other branches and their leaders. In the words of Madison in Federalist 10, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” And, in a limited government of laws rather than men, Hamilton, in Federalist 78, agrees with Montesquieu: “there is no liberty if the power of judging be not separated from the legislative and executive powers.”
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 that the equality of individuals and the government is reality rather than empty rhetoric.
Efficient and even effective judicial administration is not an end unto itself. Courts do not exist so that court leaders, either judicial or civilian, can manage them. Rather, courts must be managed well so that judges and others acting in their stead and in their shadows can do justice.
Effective court leaders have a passion for justice and courts as institutions. Whether or not they are formally trained in the law, competent court leaders understand the legal, constitutional, and historical underpinnings of the American judiciary. They know that absent purpose, court management is mere “administrivia.” Court leaders take risks in the interest of justice and the courts as institutions.
Competent court managers cooperate with others, but they are tenacious, even stubborn, in their personal service to justice under law. They recognize as well that purposes, separation of powers, independence, and inherent powers demand courts that are efficient and accountable to others, both inside and outside the government. They blend purpose into each and every judicial process, office, activity, and function.
The Caseflow Management Core Competency is at the heart of everyday judicial administration because the core function of courts is to process cases from filing to closure. Leadership is the energy that drives courts and court processes. Visioning and Strategic Planning provides for forward momentum and is an antidote to a stagnant status quo. But the Purposes and Responsibilities of Courts is the epicenter of the NACM Core Competencies. All other nine Competencies are defined by purpose. Purposes and Responsibilities of Courts is the reason, the root, and the justification for the practice of Caseflow Management and other technical Competencies. Purposes motivate and inform Visioning and Strategic Planning and give legitimacy to the exercise of Leadership.
View the Summary of Purposes and Responsibilities of Courts Curriculum Guidelines or click on each of the five Curriculum Guidelines to see the associated Knowledge, Skills and Abilities:
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