NOTE:  this is the sixth in an intermittent series of posts about the professional values I did my best to live by and communicate as expectations to court staff during my career to provide excellent public service.[i]

There are two important aspects of integrity in the Clerk’s Office. Integrity is both the honest,[ii] steadfast adherence to the judiciary’s Code of Conduct and the performance of thorough, accurate, and complete work. Work done with integrity increases public trust and confidence in our office because such work furthers the goal of achieving the fair and impartial resolution of the disputes brought before the court.

Integrity cannot be achieved without compliance with the judiciary’s Code of Conduct.[iii] Very few, if any, other institutions (public or private) have the high level of ethical expectations we have in the courts–this is one of the things which makes working in the courts special.

The Code of Conduct has five requirements (Canons):

  1. To uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary;
  2. To avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities;
  3. To adhere to appropriate standards in performing duties;
  4. To avoid the risk of conflict with official duties from outside activities and to comply with disclosure requirements; and
  5. To refrain from inappropriate political activity.[iv]

In order for the court to earn and retain the respect and support of litigants and the public, we must continuously strive to strictly uphold our Code of Conduct. Because in the eyes of the beholder perception is reality, we must not simply adhere to these requirements in fact, but also preserve the appearance of propriety at all times.

Beyond meeting the ethical standards of the Code of Conduct, integrity means our work needs to be thorough, accurate, and complete. Our work must be consistent with the duties and obligations required by relevant law, procedural and administrative rules, and policies. Are notices of court orders and judgments properly sent to all parties? Are the court’s fiscal responsibilities in the areas of budget, fees, and payments comprehensive and performed accurately? Are the court’s docket, case files, and other records timely, accurate, and complete? Examples abound from every duty we perform.

In addition, integrity refers not only to the lawfulness of court actions, but also to the results of those actions. The court’s performance, and thus integrity, are diminished when the records that parties and judges rely upon for their work are out of date, vendors and court participants are not paid promptly, judgments are not timely sent and appeal rights are compromised, etc.

Further, the American judicial process is based largely on the English common law system, whereby the precedent of prior court decisions is used to decide new cases that have similar facts and legal issues. Without the integrity of a sound court record that the Clerk’s Office primarily controls (case files, dockets, hearing/trial transcripts, etc.), the common law system is severely damaged. Simply put, our work is critical to the proper functioning of the American judicial system.

Integrity is the basis for several of our Office’s other public service standards: competency, judicial independence, effective communication, quality, and fair and impartial justice. The degree to which each and every staff member performs duties with integrity profoundly affects everyone whom the Clerk’s Office serves, both inside and outside of the court. Integrity, then, is fundamental to our providing excellent customer service and fulfilling the public’s trust in us as public servants.

Closing note:  I hope you have found this value statement to be informative and even inspiring.  Future “fulfilling the public’s trust” posts will cover more value statements, such as effective communication, innovative practices, and accountability.

[i] I previously wrote about the values of Public Service & Accountability, Teamwork & Cooperation, Quality, Diversity & Inclusion, and Competency (all found at Vantage Point – Court Leader

[ii] “Honesty is the most important attribute of high-character employees” (The Good Ones – Ten Crucial Qualities of High-Character Employees, by Bruce Weinstein, New World Library, 2015; page 28)

[iii] The Codes of Conduct for the U.S. federal courts (judges and employees) are found at:  Ethics Policies | United States Courts (; the employee Code of Conduct is found at:  Code of Conduct for Judicial Employees | United States Courts (

[iv] Many other court systems have similar canons in their codes of conduct.  For comparison, the Model Code of Conduct of the National Association for Court management is found at:Ethics Subcommittee – National Association for Court Management ( More information about U.S. state courts can be found at:  Center for Judicial Ethics | NCSC

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s