Human Resources Management

Curriculum Guidelines Summary

What Court Leaders Need to Know and Be Able to Do

The Human Resources Management competency includes four areas, which encompass personal characteristics as well as acquired knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA’s):

Vision-focused, purposeful, ethical, and legally defensible management of the court’s human resources supports judicial independence, impartiality, and accountability.   Since alignment of Human Resources with the court’s core purposes and responsibilities and its vision and strategic objectives is essential, the court must have a strategic vision. Some do not.  Effective leaders establish a direction for the court.  Human Resources and other court functions reflect this direction.  When this is true, Human Resources supports an independent and impartial judiciary, one pillar on which a free and ordered society depends and upon which the entire justice system rests.

Courts must adhere to federal and state human resources legal mandates concerning, among many issues, the hiring and supervision of court staff and their work environment.  But these mandates must always also respect judicial independence, the inherent powers doctrine, and supporting case law.  The court’s mission, values, and strategic vision should be consistent with the court’s enduring purposes and responsibilities.

If the court lacks strategic vision, the Human Resources function will drift along with the rest of the court from crisis to crisis.  In this circumstance, Human Resources staff, together with judicial branch educators, with direction from court leaders, should take the lead in helping the court affirm its core values, articulate a strategic vision, and align Human Resources and other functions with the court’s strategic vision.

Human Resources Fundamentals

For court leaders to oversee Human Resources, they must understand the fundamentals.  Job analysis is critical.  When court leaders understand what their employees do, they can oversee the evaluation of actual against desired performance. This will help the court structure jobs, departments, and workflow; develop job descriptions; design recruitment and selection procedures; evaluate positions to ensure equitable compensation; and organize performance management systems.

Like other organizations, courts need effective and legally defensible recruitment and selection processes -- identifying and attracting applicants, narrowing the pool, and selecting candidates whose qualifications best fit the specific job and the court’s values and culture.   After employees are selected, they must learn the court’s culture and be prepared for the specifics of their job. Compensation includes both extrinsic (e.g. pay, benefits) and intrinsic (e.g. satisfaction for a job well done) rewards.  Establishing internal and external equity in the compensation system through job analysis, job evaluation, and compensation surveys are important fundamentals as is employee relations. Performance management helps employees perform by defining responsibilities, setting expectations, providing necessary resources, giving ongoing feedback, periodically appraising performance, and utilizing the resulting information for decision making, problem solving, and development.  Performance appraisal is but one aspect of performance management.

Understanding labor relations, the legal environment of people management, and changing labor force demographics is essential, as is what motivates the behavior and priorities of court employees.

Context and Fairness

Establishing and enforcing fair policies and rules, dealing with employee performance and behavior issues, and responding to employee complaints and grievances, is accomplished in differing contexts. In many courts, employees are unionized.  Trial courts can be state or locally funded, affecting Human Resource policies.  Do all or some enjoy merit system protections? Are they employees of a state-funded trial court system, or is there local variability with respect to Human Resource issues?  Professionals understand the political and organizational environment of their court and the impacts of the many variations on court Human Resources Management.  They also know that whatever the context and constraints, fairness -- both actual and perceived -- is the standard of a court that is a model employer.  Employees should perceive that Human Resources can be trusted to make fair and independent recommendations to court leadership.

Management and Supervision

Effective court leaders ensure that the parts of the court, including Human Resources, are a productive whole. Organizational cohesion is possible when court leaders have the will and skill to pull the organization together so that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  Human Resources Management is central to this integrating task. Human Resources sets a tone that permeates the court from the moment employees are recruited and hired, as they are developed and promoted, through to their departure.   When the court’s leadership is effective, court staff are empowered.   They understand and are committed to the courts’ mission and vision. They know their job is important and how it fits in the whole.  Recognition of Human Resources staff as a key department and function is a strong message to judges and staff that court employees are important and make valuable contributions to justice and public trust and confidence.

Court leaders establish standards and maintain the court’s direction and operations.  They balance the need to maintain routines with the need to make changes.  Human Resource Management is not an end in itself.  Rather it supports court workflow, internal and external interdependencies, and the change process.  While Human Resources monitors and enforces compliance with legal mandates, it is primarily a service function.  Human Resources services and supports court leaders, court departments, and staff who do the work.  Leadership ensures that staff assigned to Human Resources and Training, Education, and Development staffs are on the same page.

Through their management of Human Resources and other departments, court leaders model the behavior they wish to see throughout the court. When the leaders are successful in modeling the behavior they want to see and in setting high standards with Human Resource staff, Human Resource is invaluable in creating and maintaining a high performance culture.

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