Guiding Principles

Guiding Principles

Meeting the needs of the public is the core function

  • Decisions are based on the best interests of the public.
  • Business is conducted with an underlying commitment to equal and timely justice and public access to an independent forum for the resolution of disputes.
  • Ongoing civic education is provided to strengthen trust and confidence in the branch.

Protecting the independence of the branch is crucial in a democracy

  • Decisions aim to strengthen the branch.
  • Plan and advocate for policies, sufficient stable resources, and the infrastructure necessary for the branch to fulfill its mission.

High quality is an expectation throughout the branch

  • Decisions facilitate improvement, effectiveness, and efficiency in the branch.
  • Support a comprehensive judicial branch education and training program in order to maintain a competent, responsive, and ethical judiciary and staff.
  • Establish broad and consistent policies for the operation of the courts as well as appropriate statewide rules of court and court forms.

Accountability is a duty of public service

  • Establish long- and short-term plans that guide the judicial branch and provide quantitative data on progress.
  • Evaluate branch performance to identify needed improvements.
  • Continually monitor and evaluates the use of public funds.

Future Focus:
Overcoming Fundamental Challenges

In developing its strategic plan, the Judicial Council of California has regularly reviewed state and national trends, essential court system values, external mandates, stakeholder expectations, and other forces that shape the environment of the courts.

Preserving the independence of the judicial branch and judicial decisionmaking

Preserving the independence of judicial decisionmaking is fundamental to maintaining the independence of the judicial branch. The branch must resist the pressures brought to bear on judicial officers as they make decisions on controversial legal issues that come before the courts. Likewise, to ensure that the independence of the branch is not compromised or eroded over time, the branch’s state and local leadership must work together to develop effective, long- and short-term strategies for addressing ongoing conflicts and challenges. This includes educating the public about the branch and the role of the courts, as well as listening and responding to public needs, to strengthening the trust and confidence that underpins the branch’s independence.

Measuring performance and demonstrating accountability

Since her appointment as leader of the California Judiciary, the Chief Justice has espoused a process of ongoing self-evaluation for the branch. All public institutions, including the judicial branch, are increasingly challenged to evaluate and be accountable for their performance, and to ensure that public funds are used responsibly and effectively. For the courts, this means developing meaningful and useful measures of performance, collecting and analyzing data on those measures, reporting the results to the public on a regular basis, and implementing changes to maximize efficiency and effectiveness.

Responding to the changing makeup and needs of court users

The judicial branch serves a diverse public—including court users who are older; more racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse; and more often self-represented. The branch must be nimble in responding effectively to the differing needs of court users. For example, there is an increased need for services for non-English speaking users and for the elderly, as well as for cultural sensitivity and culturally appropriate programs and services that yield more effective outcomes. There is also a need to increase the diversity of court staff and judicial officers.

Balancing the tension between traditional court functions and demands for an expanded branch mission

Court users increasingly look to the courts to do more than resolve legal issues or dispose of cases. They expect court decisions to promote effective outcomes that help them resolve underlying problems. These expectations demand innovations in programs and services, including problem-solving and treatment-oriented courts. Many of these approaches, however, are staff intensive; require additional funding; and require judges and court staff to apply different knowledge, skills, and abilities. Finding the right balance—and continuing to implement new innovations and best or promising practices that will yield effective outcomes for litigants—is an ongoing challenge.

Developing the capacity and expertise to handle the changing composition of cases

New scientific and technological developments, such as those in information management, biotechnology, and life sciences, as well as complex ethical and legal issues arising from those changes, are being brought to the courts. The judicial branch must prepare—through education and innovation—to address the complex, evolving legal issues of the present and the future.

Enhancing and maintaining a branchwide infrastructure

For the judicial branch to fulfill its mission, it must provide an infrastructure that supports and meets public needs and guarantees business continuity—now and in the future. The resource-intensive challenges of providing safe, functional facilities; branchwide technology; and accounting and human resources systems, as well as legal services to meet the needs of the courts, will require the judicial branch to work creatively and collaboratively with other branches of government, in addition to its justice system partners.

Recruiting and retaining a highly qualified, talented workforce

The judicial branch competes with the private sector to attract and retain a high-quality workforce, including managers, executives, and other staff with specific technical skills, as well as entry-level staff. To meet this challenge, the branch must maintain a competitive workforce marketplace—in terms of salaries, opportunities for advancement and professional development, desirable working conditions, recognition of advanced education, and satisfying work.