Resources, Budget and Finance

Curriculum Guidelines Summary

What Court Leaders Need to Know and Be Able to Do

The six Guidelines and the related knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) are integrated and interdependent.  Budget planning tools must be oriented by purpose and vision and support data acquisition and analysis.  Leadership and interpersonal effectiveness make budget planning, problem diagnosis, and change possible.  Technology aids both accounting and cost-benefit analysis, which establishes a basis for budget controls and performance monitoring.  The six interrelated managerial, technical, and interpersonal Guidelines are:

Court Purposes and Vision

The court’s allocation, acquisition, and management of its resources must be oriented to the court’s purposes and responsibilities and its future vision.  Absent understanding of the purposes of the courts and a preferred future, legitimate criteria for budget requests and determining success in using available resources will be lacking.  Competent court leaders know how to manage the court budget in support of the court’s core purposes, including working effectively in court executive leadership teams and with other judges and staff and legislative and executive branch leaders to establish the future vision.  Vision is needed to drive court budget and finance, including resource allocation and acquisition.  This requires understanding how others outside the court perceive its purpose and functions and how their views may support or threaten judicial branch independence, performance, and funding.

Effective court leaders articulate a long-term vision based on an understanding of court purposes and priorities and environmental trends.  They connect the vision to long-term financial plans through adjusting to the environment and multi-year budget planning.  Allocation of resources consistently supports the court’s purposes, vision, and priorities.  This sustains organizational commitment to financial management that is tied to the court’s vision.


While court managers need not be technically competent in every tool and analytical method, they must know: 1) which tool addresses what budget and financial question; 2) the prerequisites for their use; 3) how to select and manage fiscal staff; and 4) how to be intelligent consumers of financial reports and projections.  Court leaders must understand that budget and finance fundamentals are means rather than ends unto themselves.

Understanding and using appropriate budget tools and techniques result in reliable, accurate financial data on an on-going and timely basis.  The court can then generate and weigh the costs and benefits of alternative court programs and resource allocation decisions.  Competency means acquiring and using valid and reliable data to support work measurement and weighted caseload analysis, court budget planning, program delivery, auditing, assessment of outcomes, and very importantly, reallocation decisions and budget requests.

Leadership and Interpersonal Effectiveness

Expert court budgeting requires expert leadership and management of the court, its budget and finance staff, and resources.  Budgeting is not a technical, once-a-year bookkeeping exercise.  The ability to be persuasive when presenting court needs and budgets depends on the personal creditability of court leaders and their commitment to court performance and fiscal responsibility.  Leadership of the court, its resources, and budget staff and processes requires will and interpersonal skill.  Leaders need focused staff who are aligned with courts purposes, leaders, and workflows and produce technically sound and reliable data and reports.  Proposed budgets and financial reports must take into account the concerns of judicial leaders and their executive and legislative branch counterparts.

The court executive leadership team negotiates effectively with judges, other court employees, and executive and legislative branch leaders and their staffs.  Leaders forge consensus, create effective judicial teamwork, and maintain accountability and partnerships based on results, trust, honesty, and a desired positive managerial reputation.

Problem Diagnosis and Change

Problem diagnosis involves keeping current with wider societal trends and their implications for courts and their budgets, as well as anticipating, identifying, and diagnosing court problems.  Reliable diagnosis differentiates among problems with financial roots or causes and those having other origins, and enables court leaders working with others to address emerging and persistent court budget and finance problems.  When problem diagnosis indicates the need for change in the way resources are allocated and what new resources are needed, changes are made.  Effective leaders ensure that financial problem diagnosis is consistent with the purposes, vision, goals, and long-term financial plan of the court.


When properly applied and managed, information technology supports and improves budget and financial planning, decisions, and management.  Important tools include personal computers, spreadsheets, database, and financial management software.  But these tools will not be effective without qualified and well-managed staff who use appropriate hardware and software to gather and present meaningful information.  The statistics, workload and outcome measures, and cost accounting made possible through information technology must be readily available and responsive to the judiciary and its leadership, other branches of government, and the public to help ensure judicial accountability within and outside the courts.

Budget Controls and Performance Monitoring

Courts must account for their use of public funds.  But accounting for public expenditures extends past accounting to measuring the outcomes and outputs produced with the court’s budget and resources.  Court leaders must know and then report whether or not established program objectives were met.  Evaluation enables courts and others to understand court expenditures and performance, to improve the allocation of available resources, and, very importantly, to support requests for continued and new funding.  Reliable and timely budget controls, when coupled with well-executed and clearly presented performance monitoring, increase the court’s internal and external accountability and build public trust and confidence in the judiciary.

Click on each of the six Curriculum Guidelines to see the associated Knowledge, Skills and Abilities:

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