The sessions on Monday, presented by the Hon. Susan Sabers, Karl Thoennes III, and Peter C. Kiefer, featured lively discussions as audience members role-played various characters in two scenarios and the entire audience voted on the ethics of the drama using the electronic voting method PollEverywhere.

Tell Me Something I Don’t Know About Courts and Gifts
The scene introduced the twist of the Presiding Judge encouraging an expensive catered lunch for Clerk’s Office staff sponsored by a private corporation. The court administrator objected, but who would she report the ethics breach to – the very person supporting the lunch? The audience voted 17 to 7 that the court administrator was ethically obligated to oppose the catered luncheon despite the PJ taking responsibility. Has your court ever thought of this possibility? Could it happen when you get a new PJ?  Something you might not have known or even though about, but worth a conversation with the court administrator at the next staff meeting.

Congratulations! You Just Violated the Code of Conduct
The second scenario highlighted a passionate court administrator speaking out around the state for a cause (bail reform) and coming up against a strong opponent (the head of the state bail bond association). Though the merits of bail reform got a good hearing, the question centered on how far a court administrator is allowed to go in speaking out on a cause. In this case, the audience spoke 32 to one that the court administrator went too far in her advocacy. As social issues swirl around courts, the ethical question of how much leeway a court administrator can have to speak out will become increasingly relevant in the years to come.

Would you like to participate in the ethics session at the 2019 NACM Annual Conference in Las Vegas? Email me at kieferpeter@hotmail.com and we will reach out to you for next year.

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