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In 1994 Peter Kiefer began writing the regular column "A Question of Ethics" in The Court Manager, a quarterly publication of the National Association for Court Management.  Karl Thoennes joined Peter Kiefer in writing the columns in 1999.   Frank Maiocco, Superior Court in Washington State, began contributing articles in 2009.  The articles generally present both hypothetical and real-life ethics scenarios in courts and legal settings along with commentary from court managers in the field.  This page of the website indexes the ethics columns written since Peter's first in 1994, organized in chronological order and summarized by topic.  As time allows, the columns will be converted to Word format and cross referenced to the applicable Canons contained in the NACM Model Code of Conduct adopted in late 2007. 

Latest updates: The Ethics columns are now current through Fall 2010.

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Nightmare in the Blogosphere -- Fall 2010 (PK)  In this column, court administrator Bill creates what he thinks is an anonymous, well-hidden online identity and then vigorously posts his political opinions on local newspaper's web forum, including comments on a topic at least indirectly related to a portion of the court's caseload (immigration issues in a border state).  With a little ingenuity a local reporter figures out -- and then publishes -- Bill's true identity and his position as court administrator.  The column discusses balancing court employees' freedom of expression against our obligations to the court and the public, and what role online anonymity may play in our ability to express ourselves. 

I Found it on Facebook -- Summer 2010 (PK)   Ed the Court Administrator is hiring a new assistant court administrator.  The NACM Code of Conduct urges us to "use good judgment in weighing the credibility of internet data," but how far should Ed go in doing web research on prospective job candidates?   If Ed "creeps" onto Facebook and and finds photos of one of the candidates at a wild drunken party, what bearing should that have on Ed's selection?

Crossing the Language Line? -- Spring 2010 (FM)  In this scenario a court-certified interpreter provides services to a party in a civil/divorce case.  On her way out of the courthouse, outside the front doors, the interpreter notices a sharp conversation between a police investigator and the same client on a completely different, potentially criminal matter.  The interpreter interjects herself in the exchange between the officer and the client, and offers some advice to the client against the officer's inquiry.  Has the interpreter crossed a line?  What obligations do the interpreter and the court have in this scenario?  How far does the interpreter's professional responsibility extend, and what impact do the interpreter's actions have on her usefulness to the court in the future?

The Evening Shift Yet Again -- Winter 2009 (PK) -- Peter Kiefer continues to explore the persistently recurring topic of outside employment and after-hours activities for court employees.  As layoffs, furloughs, wage freezes, and other budget cutting measures affect court employees across the United States, and as generational attitudes appear to be shifting about personal privacy after hours, Peter updates this topic with three scenarios: a probation agent who wants to serve alcohol at a charity function; a deputy clerk working as a bartender at a high-class, upscale lounge; and a deputy clerk who bartends at a rowdy sports bar.  (This column is in pdf format until we have the staff time to convert to Word and cross-link to the NACM Code.)

Going Once, Going Twice...Sold! -- Fall 2009 (PK, FM) -- In this joint article Peter Kiefer and Frank Maiocco discuss the complex area of fundraising and charitable activities by court managers, court employees, and judges.  The scenario initially involves a request to field a bowling team of court employees for the local YMCA.  (Little side note: one of the commentators on this scenario is Thu Nguyen, assistant court exec in San Luis Obispo, California.  Thu proposes an interesting standard to evaluate the propriety of fundraising by court employees and officials, that is, whether there is any real, perceived, or potential pressure or coerciveness to the activity.)

Outside Employment -- Summer 2009  (PK, FM) -- This column deals again with outside employment, but this time with a different, interesting twist in in changing the scenario step by step into different circumstances.  Court Administrator Shirley accepts an outside consulting contract with a court-related software company.  At first she works across state lines -- ethically okay?  Then she works on a project in a county next door -- still okay?  Then she adjusts her hours with the court to make herself available for the consulting work, then she's assigned to a project for a law firm in her court's jurisdiction...   You can see where this is going.   

Doing One's Duty, Part 2 -- Spring 2009 (PK) -- This column reviews the latest legal developments on same sex marriage, issuing licenses, and performing ceremonies in some jurisdictions, and more broadly, the complex balance between public duty and individual moral or ethical convictions.  When a confusing series of public ballot initiatives, legal challenges, and legislative actions shift the definitions of public duty back and forth sometimes day by day, what duties and expectations do we have as court employees?  

Conflict and Opportunity -- Winter 2008  (PK) -- A municipal government has adopted a staff development and cross-training program where city employees can spend time working in other divisions and agencies.  Questions about conflicts of interest immediately arise for the municipal court.  Should law enforcement staff be able to rotate to court departments? Should court employees work in the city prosecutor's office?  (This column is in pdf format until we have the staff time to convert to Word and cross-link to the NACM Code.)

 Doing One's Duty -- Fall 2008  (PK) -- The topic of same-sex marriage continues to be actively debated across the country.  Public policy and legal actions are pending in a few states in particular.  In the midst of that shifting debate, difficult issues arise for courts and court employees who normally issue marriage licenses or conduct civil ceremonies.  This column begins to address those topics.  (This column is in pdf format until we have the staff time to convert to Word and cross-link to the NACM Code.)

A Future Up in Smoke -- Summer 2008  (PK) -- A manager makes a hiring decision based on his bias against smokers, instead of on the applicants' professional skills and abilities.  Beyond the usual non-discriminatory and protected-class requirements, what other often-subjective considerations and ethical duties do we owe to job candidates in making our hiring selections for the courts?

Just Do Your Job! -- Spring 2008 (PK) -- A knowledgeable supervisor of the Family Court Department counsels applicants applying for orders of protection on how to fill out the forms that are written in confusing legalese.  The supervisor completes the form for the applicant if necessary, or informs the person that they do not qualify for an order, in an attempt to ensure that the Judge will see the applicants. 

Canon 1.1 - Performing Court Duties – A court professional shall carry out properly issued court orders and rules, not exceeding the court professional’s authority.

Canon 1.7 - Assisting Litigants – A court professional shall be responsive to inquiries regarding standard court procedures, but shall not give legal advice unless it is required as part of one’s official position.

Just the Right Treatment -- Fall 2007 (PK) -- A probation officer, who believes strongly in drug treatment, starts her own informal, after hours, group session for probationers who are interested in overcoming their drug addictions.  Her group sessions become increasingly popular among probationers, including probationers on her caseload.  Eventually, the probation officer starts to charge the probationers for attendance in order to cover her expenses. 

Canon 1.2 - Avoiding Impropriety – A court professional shall avoid improper influences from business, family, position, party, or person.

Canon 3.1 - Outside Business – A court professional shall avoid outside activities, including outside employment, business activities, even subsequent employment and business activities after leaving judicial service, that reflect negatively upon the judicial branch and on one’s own professionalism.

A court professional shall not request or accept any compensation or fee beyond that received from their employer for work done in the course of their public employment.  However, court professionals may engage in outside employment as long as it does not conflict with the performance of their official responsibilities or violate this code.

Canon 3.2 - Compensation and Post-Employment Restrictions – During or following one’s employment with a court, a court professional shall not represent a commercial interest to, or do business with, that same court unless both the employment and commercial interest are fully disclosed to and approved by the court’s appropriate management authority.

Circle of Friends -- Spring 2007  (PK) -- Although a judge's secretary doesn't name any names specifically, she blogs about the inner workings of the court on the Internet for her own circle of friends -- and every other internet user on the planet... 

Canon 1.2 -- Avoiding Impropriety -- A court professional shall avoid activities that would impugn the dignity of the court.

Canon 1.4 -- Respect of Others -- A court professional shall treat litigants, co-workers and all others interacting with the court with dignity, respect and courtesy.

Canon 2.6 -- Legal Requirements  -- A court professional shall maintain the legally required confidentialities of the court, not disclosing confidential information to any unauthorized person, for any purpose.

Canon 2.7 -- Discretion  -- A court professional shall treat personal or sensitive information with the same discretion that one would wish others to have if one were involved in a similar case.

 

A Supervisor's Dilemma -- Fall 2006 (PK) - Two court employees work together closely for years and develop a friendship.  One of them is promoted to supervisor; the other gets into legal trouble after hours, tells the supervisor, but doesn't notify court management as required...

Canon 1.4 -- Respect of Others -- A court professional shall treat litigants, co-workers and all others interacting with the court with dignity, respect and courtesy.

Canon 1.5 -- Involvement in Actions Before a Court  -- A court professional shall notify the appropriate authority whenever he or she, anyone in his or her family, or anyone with whom he or she has a close personal relationship has been arrested, named as a party, or is otherwise formally involved in any action pending in any court.

Canon 2.3 -- Misconduct of Others  -- A court professional shall report to the appropriate authority the behavior of any court professional who violates this code . . .

 

Private Ethics, Public Jobs -- Summer 2006 (KT)  Two court employees with strong moral positions on abortion struggle to reconcile their beliefs with their public jobs.  One wants to contribute to the litigation fund for Planned Parenthood; the other considers refusing to process abortion bypass cases for minors. 

 

The Evening Shift -- Spring 2006 (PK) -- A clerk at a large metropolitan municipal court takes a second job at a suburban sports bar and grille in order to make ends meet.  At the bar and grille, she is required to wear their trademark outfit, which consists of a pair of shorts and a tight fitting tank top.  She also serves alcohol to customers.  After informing her supervisor about her new job, she is forced to choose between working at the courthouse or working at the bar and grille.    

Canon 3.1 - Outside Business -The court is a court professional’s primary employment.  A court professional shall avoid outside activities, including outside employment, business activities, even subsequent employment and business activities after leaving judicial service, that reflect negatively upon the judicial branch and on one’s own professionalism.  A court professional shall notify the appropriate authority prior to accepting work or engaging in business outside of one’s court duties

Canon 1.2 - Avoiding Impropriety - A court professional shall avoid activities that would impugn the dignity of the court.

Canon 2.3 - Misconduct of Others  - A court professional shall report to the appropriate authority the behavior of any court professional who violates this code including, but not limited to, potential conflicts of interest involving one’s duties and attempts to inappropriately influence one in performing one’s duties.

How Do We Set a Standard? -- Winter 2005 (KT) -- This column talks about some of the things we do to establish, encourage or defend the ethical standards of the courts we serve, and some of the ethical lapses or scandals that seem to challenge those efforts. 

 

Charles Not in Charge -- Fall 2005 (PK) -- A man was arrested five years ago on drug possession.  The prosecutor chose not to file charges against him at the time of  the arrest.  The man is now applying for a nursing license, but the board turned down his application because this drug possession arrest showed up on his record. 

Preamble -  The foundation of our society rests, in part, on the ability of the citizens to wisely judge the value of our courts and to acknowledge the integrity of the judiciary as a co-equal branch of our government.  Court professionals, who work for the judicial branch and are faithful to these values, must be accountable to that trust.

Canon 1.4 - Respect of Others - A court professional shall treat litigants, co-workers and all others interacting with the court with dignity, respect and courtesy.

Canon 2.6 - Legal Requirements – A court professional shall maintain the legally required confidentialities of the court, not disclosing confidential information to any unauthorized person, for any purpose.

Canon 2.7 – Discretion – A court professional shall treat personal or sensitive information with the same discretion that one would wish others to have if one were involved in a similar case.

Techno-Ethics -- Spring 2005 (PK) -- A court administrator has a new component  installed on the court's computer system that allows judges to rule on motions sent to them by attorneys. After speaking with a judicial assistant about the effectiveness of the new program, the court administrator finds out that some judges have been letting their staff rule on and sign what they consider to be mundane orders, so that they have time to address more important motions. 

Canon 1.2 - Avoiding Impropriety – A court professional shall avoid improper influences from business, family, position, party, or person.

Canon 2.3 - Misconduct of Others  - A court professional shall report to the appropriate authority the behavior of any court professional who violates this code including, but not limited to, potential conflicts of interest involving one’s duties and attempts to inappropriately influence one in performing one’s duties.

Economic Relationships -- Winter 2004-2005 (PK) -- Two retired law enforcement officers are now certified experts who testify in DUI cases.  The county has the authority to certify additional DUI experts, but it has been years since they have offered the test.  The last time the test was offered, it was administered by the two current certified experts, and no applicants passed the test.  The court administrator is concerned because other counties pay less for expert testimony because they have a larger number of available experts.  However, the court administrator knows it would be expensive to conduct certification testing, and that the quality of testimony may be compromised by new less-experienced experts.     

Canon 1.2 - Avoiding Impropriety-  A court professional shall avoid improper influences from business, family, position, party, or person.

On Hunting Trips and Golf Tournaments -- Fall 2004 (KT) -- This article deals with responses to a previous discussion about Justice Scalia's hunting trip with Vice President Dick Cheney at the time when Vice President Cheney was named in a pending case that was to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.  The last portion of the article discusses three different scenarios that involve family relationships within the court system.   

 

Equal Justice -- Summer 2004 (PK) -- A court decides to institute a new drug court program.  The court hires a local university professor to track the effectiveness of the newly implemented drug court.  In order to create a basis for comparison, the professor asks that the community be split into two cohort zones.  Defendants from the "drug court" zone are sentenced to drug court, while defendants from the "control group" zone are processed according to standard drug offense procedures.  

Canon 1.1 - Performing Court Duties – A court professional shall faithfully carry out all appropriately assigned duties striving at all times to perform the work diligently, efficiently, equitably, thoroughly, courteously, honestly, truthfully and with transparency.

Canon 2.1 - Independent Judgment – A court professional shall avoid relationships that would impair one’s impartiality and independent judgment.

Canon 2.7 – Discretion – A court professional shall be respectful of litigants, the public, applicants and employees’ personal lives . . .

Recurrent Themes -- Spring 2004 (KT) -- This article discusses the debate about how to reconcile the tension between public and private ethics, between public and private morals, public and private convictions, beliefs, and duties.

 

Under the Radar -- Winter 2003 (PK) -- In this column Peter and his commentators discuss gifts -- whether there's an acceptable bottom threshold for acceptance of low-value gifts, how various ethics codes handle gifts, slippery slopes, etc.

The Preamble – Service to the judicial branch is a public trust. Court professionals, who work for the judicial branch and are faithful to these values, must be accountable to that trust.  This code is therefore a personal and professional pledge to that trust and to those values.

Canon 3.3 - Avoiding Gifts - A court professional shall not solicit, accept, agree to accept, or dispense any gift, favor, or loan either for oneself or on behalf of another based upon any understanding, either explicit or implicit, that would influence an official action of the court.

Keychains to Contracts: Vendors to the Courts -- Fall 2003 (KT) -- This article discusses where the ethical boundary should be drawn in relationships between courts and vendors contracted by the courts.   

 

Work Left to be Done -- Summer 2003 (PK) -- In this article, Peter discusses the contents of an effective code of ethics, and the importance of educating court employees on the contents of the code. 

 

Toward a Broader View of Public Ethics -- Spring 2003 (KT)  -- Karl discusses the impact of culture on court ethics by comparing and contrasting the American view of court ethics with those of other countries around the world.

 

Whistleblowers -- Winter 2002 (PK) -- This column reviews some real life whistleblowing scenarios at the FBI, FAA, Enron, and the White House, and discusses the highly complex and personal ethics struggles involved in deciding when and how to challenge misconduct.      

Canon 2.3 - Misconduct of Others – A court professional shall report to the appropriate authority the behavior of any court professional who violates this code including, but not limited to, potential conflicts of interest involving one’s duties and attempts to inappropriately influence one in performing one’s duties.

Canon 2.4 - Attempts at Influence – A court professional shall immediately report to the appropriate authority any attempt to compel one to violate these canons.

A Surprising National Response -- Fall 2002 (KT) -- Karl discusses the responses he received from across the country about his previous article pertaining to a court administrator confronted with courthouse phone habits that allowed rampant ex parte communication, completely uncontrolled Internet surfing by court staff, hiring practices loaded with favoritism and patronage, pressure to involve court staff in judicial elections, loose grant funding controls, and a judge whose alcohol problems were becoming all too obvious in the courtroom. 

 

Saving Our Community -- Summer 2002 (PK) -- A court creates a community court that barely survives until a group a of Roma natives move into the community.  Soon after the Roma natives move into town, business leaders begin to show their support to the community court by offering grants to the court's non-profit support organization.  The business leaders also persuade the court into establishing another community court in the neighborhood where most of the Roma natives reside.  The Roma population protests because they feel placing a community court in their neighborhood is a form of institutionalized racial harassment.  Instead of fighting, the Roma population decides to move.  After a few years, the Roma population has dissipated and the business grants are discontinued.  As a result, the community court program is terminated. 

 

Private Ethics, Public Duties -- Spring 2002 (KT) -- A newly hired court administrator is confronted with courthouse phone habits that allowed rampant ex parte communication, completely uncontrolled Internet surfing by court staff, hiring practices loaded with favoritism and patronage, pressure to involve court staff in judicial elections, loose grant funding controls, and a judge whose alcohol problems were becoming all too obvious in the courtroom.   

 

Defending Death -- Fall 2001 (PK) -- A court administrator is confronted by a neighbor who vehemently disapproves of the death penalty.  This article addresses the question of how obligated a court administrator is to defend the American Justice System in its use of the death penalty,

 

Follow the Money! -- Spring 2001 (KT) -- This article is a continuation  of the discussion from a previous article that discussed different commonly used financial manipulations. 

 

Balancing Caution Against Humanity -- Fall 2000 (KT) - A court administrator uses "creative techniques" to increase revenue for the trial court system. 

 

Public Service and Personal Conviction -- Spring 2000 (KT) -- A criminal division clerk in a trial court, who is also a devout Catholic, refuses to process protest/trespass cases involving abortion clinics. 

 

Politics, Popular Elections, and the Judiciary -- Winter 2000 (KT) -- A lower court judge is up for election.  He expects that all the court employees will join in supporting him in the upcoming election.  After the election, the judge is fairly confident in distinguishing between those employees who did support him and those who did not.  When a new shipment of computers arrive, the judge orders the clerk of court to only give new computers to those who supported his election campaign.  Using her better judgment, the clerk gives the new computers to all of her employees.  A few weeks later, the clerk is fired for not following the judge's computer directive. 

 

Passing the Torch -- Summer 1999 (KT) --  A district court judge made a mistake while signing a custody order.  He checked the box that granted the father interim custody of his two children.  The clerk thought this was odd, but after a failed attempt to reach the judge on his cell phone, she entered the order into the computer.  The deputy then served the order.  The mother frantically insisted that the judge granted her custody of the children, but the deputy, with a written order that said otherwise, let the children leave with their father.  A few days later, the children were entered on the national database of missing kids. 

 

Too Many Chiefs... -- Winter 1999 (PK) -- Peter discusses the ethical dilemmas that can arise from bifurcated reporting structures for employees of court systems. 

Canon 1.1 - Performing Court Duties – A court professional shall faithfully carry out all appropriately assigned duties striving at all times to perform the work diligently, efficiently, equitably, thoroughly, courteously, honestly, truthfully and with transparency.

Canon 1.6 - Avoiding Privilege – A court professional shall not attempt to take advantages of his or her enhanced access to judges and court files to further any personal interest he or she might have in a case or engage in court related ex–parte discussions with judges.

Canon 2.8 - Proper Use of Public Resources – A court professional shall use the resources, property and funds under one’s official control judiciously and solely in accordance with prescribed procedures.

Canon 3.1 - Outside Business – The court is a court professional’s primary employment.  A court professional shall avoid outside activities, including outside employment, business activities, even subsequent employment and business activities after leaving judicial service, that reflect negatively upon the judicial branch and on one’s own professionalism.

A court professional shall notify the appropriate authority prior to accepting work or engaging in business outside of one’s court duties.

Friends -- Fall 1998 (PK) -- A court administrator is faced with a serious dilemma.  An abuse victim staying at the local women's shelter informs the court administrator that the clerk at the courthouse tipped off her abusive husband that she had filed a restraining order against him. The clerk and the woman's husband were long-time friends.  When determining a plan of action, the court administrator must consider that the clerk's actions have placed the woman in serious danger, but that restraining order files are open to the public.      

Canon 1.2 - Avoiding Impropriety – A court professional shall avoid both impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.  A court professional shall avoid activities that would impugn the dignity of the court.

Canon 1.3 – Fairness – A court professional shall conduct his or her work without bias or prejudice including, but not limited to, bias or prejudice based upon race, gender, skin color, religion, age, sexual orientation, national origin, language, marital status, socioeconomic status, or physical or mental challenge.

Canon 1.6 - Avoiding Privilege – A court professional shall not dispense special favors to anyone, whether or not he or she was offered remuneration.

Canon 2.1 - Independent Judgment – A court professional shall avoid relationships that would impair one’s impartiality and independent judgment.

Canon 2.4 - Attempts at Influence – A court professional shall immediately report to the appropriate authority any attempt to compel one to violate these canons.

Canon 2.6 - Legal Requirements – A court professional shall maintain the legally required confidentialities of the court, not disclosing confidential information to any unauthorized person, for any purpose.

Canon 2.7 – Discretion – A court professional shall be respectful of litigants, the public, applicants and employees’ personal lives; disregard information that legally cannot or should not otherwise be considered.

A court professional shall treat personal or sensitive information with the same discretion that one would wish others to have if one were involved in a similar case.

Canon 2.8 - Proper Use of Public Resources – A court professional shall use the resources, property and funds under one’s official control judiciously and solely in accordance with prescribed procedures.

A Genuine Hero -- Spring / Summer 1998 (PK) -- This article discusses the story of a court administrator who reported a judge to the city manager for bringing beer into the courthouse and offering it to the court administrator, and to the jury and the attorneys in a drunk driving case. 

Preamble – Court professionals, who work for the judicial branch and are faithful to these values, must be accountable to that trust.

Citizenship – Court professionals shall comply with our legal duties, placing loyalty to the principles of this code before loyalty to persons or other affiliations.

Canon 1.2 - Avoiding Impropriety – A court professional shall avoid both impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.

Canon 1.4 - Respect of Others – A court professional shall treat litigants, co-workers and all others interacting with the court with dignity, respect and courtesy.

Canon 2.1 - Independent Judgment – A court professional shall be vigilant of conflicts of interest and ensure that outside interests are never so extensive or of such nature as to impair one’s ability to perform court duties.

Canon 2.3 - Misconduct of Others – A court professional shall report to the appropriate authority the behavior of any court professional who violates this code including, but not limited to, potential conflicts of interest involving one’s duties and attempts to inappropriately influence one in performing one’s duties.

 

Guilt by Association -- Winter 1998 (PK) -- In this article, Peter discusses the small town issue of a person holding two public positions that could perhaps constitute a conflict of interest. 

Canon 2.1 - Independent Judgment – A court professional shall be vigilant of conflicts of interest and ensure that outside interests are never so extensive or of such nature as to impair one’s ability to perform court duties.

Canon 3.1 - Outside Business – The court is a court professional’s primary employment.  A court professional shall avoid outside activities, including outside employment, business activities, even subsequent employment and business activities after leaving judicial service, that reflect negatively upon the judicial branch and on one’s own professionalism.

In the Best Interest of the Child -- Fall 1997 (PK) -- A CPS worker has a young girl removed from the home of her mother and the mother's live-in-boyfriend because the boyfriend was charged with child molestation as a juvenile.  Even though the mother had previously had her daughter taken away from her because of similar circumstances, she told the media that her child was taken away for no reason.  The CPS worker, fearing that the judge would change his decision to keep the girl out of the home because of media pressure, leaked information to the press about the shady past of the mother and her boyfriend. 

Canon 1.6 - Avoiding Privilege A court professional shall not attempt to take advantages of his or her enhanced access to judges and court files to further any personal interest he or she might have in a case or engage in court related ex–parte discussions with judges.

Canon 2.6 - Legal Requirements

A court professional shall maintain the legally required confidentialities of the court, not disclosing confidential information to any unauthorized person, for any purpose.  A court professional shall properly provide confidential information that is available to specific individuals authorized to receive such by reason of statute, court rule or administrative policy.

 

Citizenship -- Summer 1997 (PK) -- A court administrator suspects that a new hire in the criminal section may be involved in an anti-government group that has recently filed a bogus lien against two of the judges working for the court.  Secret indictments were issued for two of the groups leaders.  The new hire has access to these secret indictments because of his job at the courthouse.  The leaders were never located, and the court administrator worries that the new hire may have tipped off the leaders.  The court administrator investigates any possible involvement that the new hire may have in the anti-government group.  While no conclusive evidence of his involvement was ever found, the court administrator still decides to terminate the new hire before his probationary period ends because it is too risky to hire him on full time. 

The Preamble – Court professionals, who work for the judicial branch and are faithful to these values, must be accountable to that trust.

Citizenship – It is fundamental to this code and a prerequisite to its other canons that a court professional commit to fulfilling the duties of citizenship in a self–governing democratic society.  Court professionals shall comply with our legal duties, placing loyalty to the principles of this code before loyalty to persons or other affiliations

Canon 1.1 - Performing Court Duties – A court professional shall faithfully carry out all appropriately assigned duties striving at all times to perform the work diligently, efficiently, equitably, thoroughly, courteously, honestly, truthfully and with transparency.

Canon 1.2 - Avoiding Impropriety – A court professional shall avoid both impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.  A court professional shall avoid activities that would impugn the dignity of the court.

Canon 2.1 - Independent Judgment – A court professional shall avoid relationships that would impair one’s impartiality and independent judgment.

Canon 2.3 - Misconduct of Others – A court professional shall report to the appropriate authority the behavior of any court professional who violates this code including, but not limited to, potential conflicts of interest involving one’s duties and attempts to inappropriately influence one in performing one’s duties.

Canon 2.6 - Legal Requirements – A court professional shall maintain the legally required confidentialities of the court, not disclosing confidential information to any unauthorized person, for any purpose.

Canon 2.7 – Discretion – A court professional shall be respectful of litigants, the public, applicants and employees’ personal lives; disregard information that legally cannot or should not otherwise be considered.

Are You Telling Me Everything Here? -- Spring 1997 (PK) --  In the course of working together, the court administrator and the supervisor of the criminal section had a strained relationship.  Nevertheless, the supervisor decides to take a new position upon recommendation from the court administrator.    The court administrator was upfront with the supervisor about the risks of taking this position, but she was fairly confident that the position would not be eliminated any time soon.  After a few years, the new program was not proving to be successful, so the court administrator did not include it in the following year's budget.  As a result, the supervisor's position was eliminated and he lost his job.  

Canon 1.1 - Performing Court Duties – A court professional shall faithfully carry out all appropriately assigned duties striving at all times to perform the work diligently, efficiently, equitably, thoroughly, courteously, honestly, truthfully and with transparency.

Canon 1.4 - Respect of Others – A court professional shall treat litigants, co-workers and all others interacting with the court with dignity, respect and courtesy.

Showing Our True Feelings -- Winter 1997 (PK) -- A popular police officer is brutally raped and murdered.  The presiding judge pressures the court administrator into using court funds to purchase a floral wreath for the officer's funeral.  With the day of the funeral ahead, the court administrator allows court cases for that day to be rescheduled so that the staff and judges can attend the funeral.  At the funeral, the local police department handed out pins with the officer's picture on them.  Many staff members wear the pins on and off the job.   

 

Privilege -- Fall 1996 (PK) -- This article deals with a scenario in which a district attorney wiretaps and records a conversation between a defendant and his priest, in which the defendant confesses he is guilty of murder.  The district attorney subsequently charges the defendant with murder.  During a legislature session, a representative presents a bill that will abolish any implied privilege that exists between priest and penitent.  The representative argues that the purpose of the criminal justice system is to search for truth. 

Preamble – The foundation of our society rests, in part, on the ability of the citizens to wisely judge the value of our courts and to acknowledge the integrity of the judiciary as a co-equal branch of our government.

Citizenship – This includes upholding the United States Constitution and the appropriate state constitution, as well as Federal and state laws and legal regulations. Court professionals shall comply with our legal duties, placing loyalty to the principles of this code before loyalty to persons or other affiliations.

Canon 1.4 - Respect of Others – A court professional shall treat litigants, co-workers and all others interacting with the court with dignity, respect and courtesy.

Canon 1.3 – Fairness – A court professional shall conduct his or her work without bias or prejudice including, but not limited to, bias or prejudice based upon race, gender, skin color, religion, age, sexual orientation, national origin, language, marital status, socioeconomic status, or physical or mental challenge.

Blacklist Justice? -- Summer 1996 (PK) -- A local data service company wishes to generate a monthly list of names of tenants who have been involved in landlord-tenant law suits.  The court administrator realizes that this information is public, but she is concerned that the company is using the information to create a blacklist of tenants who have caused trouble for their landlords.  To add to her concern, the data company has revealed that they intend to sell the list to its clients so that they may use the information however they see fit. 

Canon 1.2 - Avoiding Impropriety – A court professional shall avoid improper influences from business, family, position, party, or person.  A court professional shall avoid activities that would impugn the dignity of the court.

Canon 1.4 - Respect of Others – A court professional shall treat litigants, co-workers and all others interacting with the court with dignity, respect and courtesy.

Canon 2.6 - Legal Requirements – A court professional shall maintain the legally required confidentialities of the court, not disclosing confidential information to any unauthorized person, for any purpose.

Canon 2.8 - Proper Use of Public Resources – A court professional shall use the resources, property and funds under one’s official control judiciously and solely in accordance with prescribed procedures.

The Telephone Temptation -- Spring 1996 (PK) -- This column discusses a scenario in which court employees are abusing their work phones by making numerous personal local and long distance phone calls. 

 

Gifts, Gifts, and More Gifts... -- Winter 1996 (PK) -- This article reviews a series of short scenarios on the issue of accepting gifts. 

Canon 2.8 - Proper Use of Public Resources – A court professional shall use the resources, property and funds under one’s official control judiciously and solely in accordance with prescribed procedures.

Canon 3.3 - Avoiding Gifts – A court professional shall not solicit, accept, agree to accept, or dispense any gift, favor, or loan either for oneself or on behalf of another based upon any understanding, either explicit or implicit, that would influence an official action of the court.

Proof? ... You Want Proof? -- Winter 1995 (PK) -- A clerk follows the code of ethics by reporting what she believes to be a violation of the court’s code of ethics.  After an investigation of the issue, the court administrator finds that no violation occurred.  The presiding judge, who is angry about the report against his law clerk, is now demanding that the clerk be fired. 

Canon 1.4 - Respect of Others ­­– A court professional shall treat litigants, co-workers and all others interacting with the court with dignity, respect and courtesy.

Canon 2.3 - Misconduct of Others –  A court professional shall report to the appropriate authority the behavior of any court professional who violates this code . . .

Canon 2.6 - Legal Requirements – A court professional shall maintain the legally required confidentialities of the court, not disclosing confidential information to any unauthorized person, for any purpose.

Canon 2.8 - Proper Use of Public Resources – A court professional shall use the resources, property and funds under one’s official control judiciously and solely in accordance with prescribed procedures.

Doing Anything to Get Elected -- Fall 1995 (PK) -- A judge is running for office against a local attorney that he dislikes.  The judge deceitfully gains access to the registered voter database and develops campaign lists from the information on the database.  The judge's judicial secretary witnesses the judge doing this, but says nothing because she fears losing her job if he is not re-elected.   

Scope – This code applies to all full-time, part-time and temporary court system employees, who are identified in this code as court professionals. The code is intended to complement separate professional codes that bind court system professionals.

Canon 1.1 - Performing Court Duties – A court professional shall faithfully carry out all appropriately assigned duties striving at all times to perform the work diligently, efficiently, equitably, thoroughly, courteously, honestly, truthfully and with transparency.

Canon 1.6 - Avoiding Privilege – A court professional shall use his or her official position solely for its intended purpose. A court professional shall not use his or her position (intentionally or unintentionally), to secure unwarranted privileges or exemptions for oneself or others; a court professional shall not dispense special favors to anyone, whether or not he or she was offered remuneration.

Canon 4.1 – Refraining from Inappropriate Political Activity – Engaging in any political activity is done strictly as a private citizen and only in accordance with state law or court rules.  A court professional shall participate only during non-court hours, using only non-court resources. 

Unless a court professional is elected to one’s court position, one shall campaign during non­-­work hours or take an unpaid leave of absence upon declaring one’s intent to run for office. If elected, a court professional shall resign one’s post with the court unless one is holding a political office that clearly does not hold a conflict of interest, nor does it interfere with one’s ability to perform one’s court duties.

Canon 2.8 - Proper Use of Public Resources

A court professional shall use the resources, property and funds under one’s official control judiciously and solely in accordance with prescribed procedures.

Getting to the Core -- Summer 1995 (PK) -- In this column, Peter shares some concepts to consider when you develop a new code of ethics, or revisit an existing code. 

Preamble – Service to the judicial branch is a public trust.  The foundation of our society rests, in part, on the ability of the citizens to wisely judge the value of our courts and to acknowledge the integrity of the judiciary as a co-equal branch of our government.  This code is therefore a personal and professional pledge to that trust and to those values.

Keeping the Customer Satisfied -- Spring 1995 (PK) -- A court administrator develops a new program that is able to track almost every aspect of court work.  A planning committee, consisting of two judges, the court’s programmer/analyst, the criminal supervisor, the civil supervisor, and the court administrator, is formed to process development requests.  A request is received from a local attorney who is running against one of the judges in the court administrator’s court.  When the court administrator presents the request to the planning committee, the two judges are quick to deny the request.

Citizenship –This includes upholding the United States Constitution and the appropriate state constitution, as well as Federal and state laws and legal regulations. Court professionals shall comply with our legal duties, placing loyalty to the principles of this code before loyalty to persons or other affiliations.

Canon 2.5 - Properly Maintain Records – A court professional shall not inappropriately destroy, alter, falsify, mutilate, backdate or fail to make required entries on any records within the court’s control.

Canon 2.6 - Legal Requirements – A court professional shall maintain the legally required confidentialities of the court, not disclosing confidential information to any unauthorized person, for any purpose.

Canon 2.7 – Discretion – A court professional shall treat personal or sensitive information with the same discretion that one would wish others to have if one were involved in a similar case.

 

You Can Negotiate Anything? -- Fall 1994 (PK) -- This article discusses a scenario in which the court administrator and a union business agent negotiate the wording of the court’s code of ethics. 

Preamble –This code is therefore a personal and professional pledge to that trust and to those values.

Canon 1.2 - Avoiding Impropriety – A court professional shall avoid both impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.

A Case of Small Town Blues -- Summer 1994 (PK) -- A new deputy clerk position has opened up in a rural courthouse.  The clerk has received many applications from very qualified applicants.  The judge approaches the clerk and informs her that his neighbor’s son has applied and would be perfect for the job.  The clerk informs the judge of the other qualified applicants, but the judge is still insistent that his neighbor’s son be hired.  Feeling pressured by the judge, the clerk hires the judge’s neighbor’s son, even though she feels he is less qualified. 

Canon 1.1 - Performing Court Duties – A court professional shall faithfully carry out all appropriately assigned duties striving at all times to perform the work diligently, efficiently, equitably, thoroughly, courteously, honestly, truthfully and with transparency.

Canon 1.2 - Avoiding Impropriety – A court professional shall avoid improper influences from business, family, position, party, or person.

Canon 1.3 – Fairness – A court professional shall conduct his or her work without bias or prejudice including, but not limited to, bias or prejudice based upon race, gender, skin color, religion, age, sexual orientation, national origin, language, marital status, socioeconomic status, or physical or mental challenge.

Canon 1.4 - Respect of Others – A court professional shall treat litigants, co-workers and all others interacting with the court with dignity, respect and courtesy.

Canon 1.6 - Avoiding Privilege – A court professional shall not use his or her position (intentionally or unintentionally), to secure unwarranted privileges or exemptions for oneself or others . . . 

Canon 2.1 - Independent Judgment – A court professional shall avoid relationships that would impair one’s impartiality and independent judgment.

You Want Me to Do What?! -- Spring 1994 (PK) -- A court administrator designs a new code of ethics for court employees.  When the code is finished, he sends it to all court employees.  He also asked each employee to sign a memo that says they received a copy of the code and agree to abide by it.  One employee refuses to sign, and eventually resgins because she does not agree that she should be required to abide by the code.   

Preamble –This code is therefore a personal and professional pledge to that trust and to those values.

Scope – This code applies to all full-time, part-time and temporary court system employees, who are identified in this code as court professionals.

 

Nothing Succeeds Like Success? -- Winter 1993/1994 (PK) -- A local reporter discovers that each year, the state’s court management association holds its conference at a very nice resort.  The court administrator has always been careful to negotiate a rate for the resort that does not exceed the states per diem.  However, the reporter suspects governmental expenditure abuse and demands to see the travel vouchers and expense receipts for each court employee.  The court administrator stalls by telling the reporter that it will take weeks to pull the information because it is intermixed with all the other travel vouchers.  Eventually, the reporter gives up on the story and moves on. 

Canon 1.1 - Performing Court Duties – A court professional shall faithfully carry out all appropriately assigned duties striving at all times to perform the work diligently, efficiently, equitably, thoroughly, courteously, honestly, truthfully and with transparency.

Canon 1.2 - Avoiding Impropriety – A court professional shall avoid activities that would impugn the dignity of the court.

Canon 2.8 - Proper Use of Public Resources – A court professional shall use the resources, property and funds under one’s official control judiciously and solely in accordance with prescribed procedures.