Resources, Budget and Finance

What This Core Competency Is and Why It Is Important

The allocation, acquisition, and management of the court’s budget impacts every court operation and, arguably, determines how well, and even whether, courts achieve their mission.

Allocating, acquiring, and managing financial resources are core court management functions carried out by court leaders, both judicial and administrative, and other court staff in concert with executive and legislative branch leaders and their staffs.  Effective court performance requires that court leaders -- the court executive leadership team -- have the ability:

  • To set priorities and to manage competing demands on existing court resources in ways that deliver justice and service and build credibility, both internally and externally;

  • To link resource allocations and requests to fundamental court purposes;

  • To communicate court purposes, objectives, and budget needs clearly and compellingly; and

  • To ensure judicial independence and essential court functions while constructively negotiating with executive and legislative leaders and staff.

Resources are rarely sufficient to fund everything of value that courts or any other organization might do.  Because spending in one area necessarily precludes expenditure in others, effective court performance requires skillful allocation of available resources.  Like other organizations, both public and private, courts can cut some expenditures and reallocate those funds to their top performance goals.

When resource allocation and resource acquisition are skillful, courts preserve their independence, ensure their accountability, both internally and externally, improve their performance, and build and maintain public trust and confidence.  Court executive leadership teams that effectively allocate existing resources enhance the court’s reputation and persuasiveness with funding authorities.

Resource allocation and resource acquisition are inextricably linked.  The practical implications of this linkage include:

  • Finance and budget must command the court manager’s attention throughout the year, not just when the court budget is being prepared or presented;

  • Effective budget planning and management require consideration of: available resources and funding sources; the goals to be advanced by court expenditures; and the people, work or activity to be funded;

  • Effective budgeting and financial management mandate continuous change in what a court does and how it does it, given the court’s purposes, priorities, and performance.  Court leaders must adjust court spending and programs to respond to court-determined priorities and external pressures, including external funding authorities, and available funding and revenue sources;

  • Change is incremental.  To manage change rather than to be managed by change and to improve court performance over time, the court executive leadership team must have vision, will, strategy, a multi-year budget plan, and long-term commitment.

The ability to be persuasive when presenting court needs and budgets requires leadership and interpersonal skill, but cannot be effective unless required and technically sound supporting data has been assembled.  Proposed budgets should take into account the courts executive and legislative branch counterparts as well as court purposes and priorities.

Technical budget and finance fundamentals that support competent court leaders include: cost accounting; cost benefit analysis; work measurement and weighted caseload analysis; problem diagnosis; resource and performance auditing; computer software for planning, analyzing spending, modeling alternatives, accounting, and reporting.  These tools support, but are not the core of the Resources, Budget, and Financial Core Competency.  Rather, this core competency requires knowledge, skill, and ability in linking resource allocation and acquisition decisions to fundamental court purposes, and leading and adjusting the way courts carry out their work and deliver justice.

View the Summary of Resources, Budget and Finance Curriculum Guidelines or click on each of the six Curriculum Guidelines to see the associated Knowledge, Skills and Abilities:

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