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AP III, Sec. 2 Code of conduct and ethics

Baldwin's Kentucky Revised Statutes AnnotatedAdministrative Procedures of the Court of JusticeEffective: February 1, 2021

Baldwin's Kentucky Revised Statutes Annotated
Administrative Procedures of the Court of Justice
Part III. Personnel Policies
Effective: February 1, 2021
Administrative Procedures, AP III, Sec. 2
AP III, Sec. 2 Code of conduct and ethics
A court system that upholds high standards of integrity, impartiality, and independence is indispensable to justice in our society.
SECTION 2.01 Applicability
(1) This Code of Conduct and Ethics applies to all employees, interns, temporary employees, and volunteers working within the KCOJ.
(2) Any violation of this Code of Conduct and Ethics may result in disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.
(3) Matters involving elected or appointed officials will be addressed by the appropriate disciplinary authority.
(4) Employees are responsible for consulting with their appointing authority or an HRA to resolve any issues that are not explicitly addressed in this Code of Conduct and Ethics.
SECTION 2.02 General Standards of Conduct and Ethical Obligations
(1) Employee actions must promote public confidence in the integrity of the judicial system.
(2) As public servants, employees of the KCOJ have a duty to manage their professional and personal affairs in a manner that maintains and promotes public confidence in the judicial system.
(3) Employees must avoid situations that might lead to a conflict of interest, the appearance of a conflict of interest, or the appearance of impropriety between self-interest and their duty to the courts and the general public.
(4) Employees must perform their assigned work duties in accordance with established KCOJ policies and other workplace policies, processes, and procedures.
(5) Employees must not allow family, social, or other relationships to influence official conduct or judgment.
SECTION 2.03 Reporting Waste, Fraud, and Abuse
(1) Employees, elected officials, or appointed officials are encouraged to report suspected instances of waste, fraud, and abuse by other employees, elected officials, or appointed officials by calling toll free at 1-844-761-0104 or emailing courtstipline@kycourts.net.
(2) Examples of waste, fraud, and abuse include but are not limited to:
(a) Contract and procurement fraud
(b) Bribery or solicitation of bribes
(c) Solicitation or acceptance of gifts or gratuities in violation of Section 2.12 of these Policies or other applicable laws
(d) Kickbacks
(e) Theft or misuse of government property
(3) Complaints received will be forwarded to the appropriate entity or department for investigation. Violations of these Policies or other applicable laws will be addressed by the appropriate disciplinary authority.
(4) Employees, elected officials, and appointed officials are prohibited from retaliating against a person who, in good faith, makes a report or otherwise assists in an investigation under Sections 2.03 or 2.04 of these Policies.
(5) Complaints not related to suspected violations of Sections 2.02, 2.03, or 2.04 of these Policies will be referred to the AOC HR Department.
SECTION 2.04 Violations of the Code of Conduct and Ethics
Employees, elected officials, and appointed officials are encouraged to report an employee's violation of this Code of Conduct and Ethics by following the same reporting method contained in Section 2.03(1) of these Policies.
SECTION 2.05 Confidential Information
(1) Confidential information includes, but is not limited to:
(a) Information required to be kept confidential by federal law, state law, court rule, administrative regulation, or court order, including but not limited to, Social Security numbers, taxpayer identification numbers, dates of birth, financial account numbers, and medical information;
(b) Information on pending cases not already a matter of public record;
(c) Any other information learned or developed during the course of working within the KCOJ that derives independent economic value from not being generally known or readily ascertainable by other individuals. Confidential information includes, but is not limited to, procedures, manuals, reports, communications, and financial information.
(2) Employees, current and former, must not directly or indirectly:
(a) Use confidential information for personal gain or the personal gain of any other person; nor
(b) Disclose confidential information acquired during the course of employment except as required in the performance of official duties, or as otherwise required by law.
(3) Employees must exercise discretion in their comments to avoid the appearance of partiality or abuse of position.
(4) Employees must not remove KCOJ records and documents from judicial property without proper authorization from the appointing authority or designee.
(5) Employees must:
(a) Avoid making public comment about a pending action;
(b) Not initiate or repeat communications with litigants, witnesses, attorneys, judges, jury members, or any other person involved with a pending action, unless necessary for official duties; and
(c) Refer all media requests to their appointing authority or the AOC Office of Public Information.
(6) Employees may respond to inquiries from the public concerning court procedures but shall not provide legal advice.
SECTION 2.06 Performance of Duties and Impartiality
(1) Employees must perform official duties diligently during working hours.
(2) Employees must perform their duties impartially:
(a) With courtesy and respect for the public, co-workers, supervisors, and appointing authorities; and
(b) Without bias or prejudice, shown by words or conduct, based upon race, national origin, color, religion, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, smoker or non-smoker status, veteran's status, political affiliation, or any other characteristic protected by law.
SECTION 2.07 Abuse of Position
(1) Employees must avoid conduct that may give the appearance of impropriety or the appearance that the employee is using his or her position with the KCOJ to further private interests.
(2) An employee must not improperly use his or her position, title, or authority to secure a personal or private benefit or a personal or private benefit for another person.
(3) An employee must not use his or her official position to make a purchase of materials or property for personal or private use, or otherwise misuse KCOJ purchasing privileges.
(4) An employee must not attempt to take advantage of his or her access to judges and court files to further any personal or private interest or engage in any action that may appear to be or is an attempt to influence the outcome of a judicial matter pending or impending before any court in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
(5) An employee must never influence or attempt to influence the assignment of cases, or take any action that inappropriately favors any litigant, attorney, person, or entity with business before the court, nor should any employee imply that he or she is in a position to do so.
SECTION 2.08 Anti-Nepotism Policy
(1) Definitions
The following definitions apply to this section:
(a) “Nepotism” means the participation of an employee, elected official, or appointed official in any action relating to the employment of a person who is a member of his or her family or with whom he or she is in a romantic relationship, including authorizing or otherwise causing the hiring or appointment, reclassification, promotion, demotion, transfer, or assignment to special duty of the person;
(b) “Family” has the same meaning as provided in Section 1.04 of these Policies;
(c) “Romantic relationship” means marriage or a relationship between individuals involving casual or serious dating, sexual contact, intimacy, or any other conduct typically associated with a romantic or sexual relationship.
(2) Statement of Policy
(a) This policy applies with equal force to elected and appointed officials.
(b) It is the policy of the KCOJ that all employees be hired based on demonstrated knowledge, skills, abilities, and bona fide work-related factors, and not based on favoritism or family relationship.
(c) To avoid conflicts of interest and the appearance of favoritism, nepotism is prohibited.
(3) This Policy shall not be retroactively enforced and will only apply to employment actions occurring on or after January 1, 2020.
SECTION 2.09 Conflict of Interest
(1) A conflict of interest or its appearance can seriously undermine the public's confidence and trust in the judiciary. KCOJ employees must identify and avoid conflicts of interest.
(2) A conflict of interest exists when:
(a) An employee participates in an action or decision that directly or indirectly impacts that employee or a member of his or her family, as defined in Section 1.04(7) of these Policies, or a person with whom the employee has a close personal relationship, including a romantic relationship as defined in Section 2.08 of these Policies; or
(b) An employee, elected official, or appointed official supervises or manages, directly or in his or her chain of command, any person who is a member of his or her family, as defined in Section 1.04(7) of these Policies, or is a person with whom he or she has a close personal relationship, including a romantic relationship as defined in Section 2.08 of these Policies.
(3) An employee must immediately report the potential for or the existence of a conflict of interest to his or her appointing authority and the HR Director in writing.
(4) The HR Director and the appointing authority, in consultation with the General Counsel, will evaluate whether a conflict of interest exists, and if so, the HR Director will approve appropriate measures to resolve it.
SECTION 2.10 KCOJ Property and Resources
(1) Employees, appointed officials, and elected officials must use public resources, property, and KCOJ funds for official business only.
(2) Employees, appointed officials, and elected officials must return all KCOJ property, including but not limited to, keys, identification badges, parking badges, and assigned technology hardware, to their appointing authority or designee upon separation of employment or office. The KCOJ will consider the failure or refusal of any employee, appointed official, or elected official to return KCOJ property upon separation to constitute theft.
(3) An employee must receive prior approval from his or her appointing authority before removing any KCOJ property, including technology hardware, from his or her workstation. An appointing authority may only permit an employee to remove KCOJ property from his or her workstation if there exists a legitimate business need for the removal and may require the employee to return the KCOJ property at any time.
(4) Employees, appointed officials, and elected officials are subject to the Acceptable Use Policy for COJ Information Technology. The Acceptable Use Policy for COJ Information Technology shall be available on the HR Intranet site and from the AOC HR Department.
(5) The KCOJ policy prohibiting offensive, intimidating, or harassing material in the workplace applies with equal force to material accessed by, communicated through, or stored upon electronic systems.
(6) Any violation of this policy may result in disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal. Matters involving elected officials and appointed officials will be addressed by the appropriate disciplinary authority.
SECTION 2.11 Outside Employment of Full-Time and Part-Time Employees
(1) The KCOJ must be the primary employer of each full-time employee and part-time employee.
(2) Due to the obligation of all KCOJ employees to maintain and promote public confidence in the judicial system, outside employment will be reviewed to ensure conformity with this Code of Conduct and Ethics.
(3) All KCOJ employees are prohibited from:
(a) Outside employment that creates a conflict of interest, potential conflict of interest, or the appearance of a conflict of interest.
(b) Outside employment that cannot be accomplished before or after the employee's normal KCOJ working hours.
(c) Outside employment that is incompatible with the performance of the employee's KCOJ work duties.
(d) Outside employment with an entity that conducts financial business with the KCOJ, an entity that regularly appears in court, or an entity that requires the employee to have frequent contact with attorneys who regularly use the court system.
(e) Performance of work for any state governmental entity within the Commonwealth of Kentucky without the written consent of the AOC Director or designee.
(f) Outside employment that abuses the employee's position with the KCOJ or uses confidential information acquired in the performance of the employee's work.
(4) Approval or Denial of Request
(a) An employee who wishes to engage in outside employment must provide a written request on the Secondary Employment Request Form to his or her appointing authority.
(b) All new employees who wish to continue their outside employment must provide a written notification of such employment to their appointing authority at the start of their employment with the KCOJ and receive written approval to continue such employment. New employees engaged in outside employment will be required to cease such employment if the employment does not comply with these Policies.
(c) Written requests and notifications for approval of outside employment must contain the following information:
(i) Name, address, and phone number of outside employer;
(ii) Duties and responsibilities of the position; and
(iii) Scheduled work hours for each week.
(d) The appointing authority, after consultation with the HR Director or designee, will determine if the request complies with these Policies.
(e) The employee may request reconsideration by submitting the request to the AOC Director or designee for a final determination.
(5) Change in Outside Employment Status
All employees with approved outside employment must immediately notify their appointing authority in writing when a change in their outside employment status occurs. Written notification of a change in outside employment status must be made when any of the following occurs:
(a) Change in the identity of the outside employer;
(b) Substantial change in the duties or responsibilities of the outside employment;
(c) Substantial change in work schedule and hours of the outside employment;
(d) Reasonable belief that an actual or potential conflict of interest, as specified in Section 2.09 of these Policies, has developed; or
(e) Any other change in outside employment that would cause the outside employment to be inconsistent with this Code of Conduct and Ethics or these Policies.
In the absence of proper notification, a change in outside employment status may still be reviewed by the appointing authority for compliance with these Policies. After consulting with the HR Director or designee, the appointing authority will determine whether the change in outside employment status complies with these Policies.
SECTION 2.12 Gifts and Gratuities
(1) Except as provided below in subsection (2), an employee must not accept a gift, payment of cash or cash equivalent (e.g. gift cards), favor, loan, tickets or passes for admission to a sporting or entertainment event, meals, travel expenses, services, memberships to private clubs, including social, athletic or country clubs, or other items totaling a value greater than $25 in a single calendar year from:
(a) Any person or entity likely to be engaged in a proceeding that would normally come before the court;
(b) Any person, vendor, or entity likely to do business or seeking to do business with the KCOJ; or
(c) Any other person or entity under circumstances that might reasonably be considered as influencing, attempting to influence, or appearing to influence the performance or non-performance of an employee's job duties or responsibilities with the KCOJ.
(2) The following are not considered gifts:
(a) Gifts and social hospitality from family or other individuals with whom the employee has a close personal relationship.
(b) Registration fees and travel expenses related to an activity devoted to the improvement of law, the legal system, administration of justice, or an employee's official job duties, sponsored by an outside entity, agency, or organization, so long as, the source of the payment does not improperly influence or the give the appearance of improperly influencing the employee in performance of official duties, or otherwise give the appearance of impropriety. Sponsored expenses are limited to the actual cost of attending the activity, including registration fees, travel, food, and lodging reasonably incurred by the employee.
(i) Examples of sponsored expenses that are excepted from subsection (1) include, but are not limited to, the following:
1. Costs associated with attending a meeting, training, presentation, professional education, or license/certificate course(s);
2. Travel costs required for an employee who is a board member or member of an organization to attend board meetings and other events associated with the organization; and
3. Registration fees and travel costs associated with attendance to state and national conferences that are related to the business, purpose, and mission of the KCOJ.
(ii) Sponsored expenses include full and partial waivers, scholarships, and payments of registration fees or associated travel costs by an outside entity, agency, or organization.
(iii) Requests for sponsored travel that qualify as an exception must be submitted and approved in accordance with the Administrative Procedures of the Court of Justice AP Part VII, Reimbursement for Official Travel, and any other AOC policies, processes, and procedures.
(c) Books, plaques, certificates of appreciation, and other forms of honoraria.
(d) Door prizes that are available to the public.
(e) Tickets or passes for admission to a sporting or entertainment event if the employee pays face value for the ticket or pass.
(f) Gifts or donated items from a supervisor or appointing authority or elected or appointed official to KCOJ employees or subordinates.
(3) If an employee receives a gift that is prohibited by subsection (1) of this section, he or she must:
(a) Notify his or her supervisor that a prohibited gift has been received; and
(b) Return the gift as soon as possible. If returning the item is not possible, the employee's supervisor should contact his or her appointing authority for further guidance. With the approval of the employee's appointing authority, perishable items may be given to a charitable organization or shared by all employees within the employee's office.
(4) An employee must not request or accept any additional fee or gratuity over the employee's regular compensation for his or her KCOJ work duties.
SECTION 2.13 Political Activities
(1) Political Contributions and Campaigns
(a) No employee in the KCOJ may be coerced, forced, or required to make any contribution for political purposes.
(b) No employee in the KCOJ may be coerced, forced, or required to solicit or take part in soliciting for political purposes.
(c) Employees are prohibited from using KCOJ time or resources for the purpose of political solicitation. Employees shall not display campaign literature or other election material in any facility owned, leased, or otherwise occupied by the KCOJ.
(2) Political Office
(a) Partisan Political Office
All employees of the KCOJ shall terminate their employment upon appointment or prior to filing for election to any partisan political office.
(b) Nonpartisan Office
(i) Employees of the KCOJ who are appointed to or seek to hold a nonpartisan, non-judicial office are not required to terminate their employment upon appointment or prior to filing for election to the nonpartisan, non-judicial office as long as campaigning for election does not interfere with the performance of their duties. Any employee who is appointed to or intends to seek a nonpartisan, non-judicial office shall notify his or her appointing authority and the AOC HR Department upon appointment or prior to filing for election.
(ii) Employees of the KCOJ shall terminate their employment upon appointment to any judicial office and, to avoid the appearance of impropriety or a conflict of interest, prior to filing for election to any judicial office.
(c) Conduct by an employee that is consistent with or indicative of an active campaign for an office that would require the employee to terminate his or her employment prior to filing for election under these Policies is incompatible with this Code of Conduct and Ethics. A substantiated report of this conduct may result in disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.
(d) Pursuant to Kentucky Constitution § 165 and KRS 61.080, there are certain offices considered incompatible by law. When considering any elected or appointed nonpartisan office, these sources must be consulted. Acceptance of an incompatible office voids the first office as a matter of law.
(3) Political Activities
(a) The KCOJ encourages employees to register and vote. Employees are allowed four hours of paid leave to vote during work hours. For more information regarding voting leave, refer to Section 7.05 of these Policies.
(b) The following political activities are permitted for employees, except while the employee is on duty:
(i) Expressing opinions on all political subjects and candidates.
(ii) Making voluntary cash contributions to political parties, candidates, and organizations.
(iii) Joining a political club and attending its meetings.
(iv) Attending political rallies, conventions, etc., and participating in the selection of committee members.
(v) Wearing political badges, buttons, or other designations. Nothing in these Policies prohibits voluntarily displaying political stickers on private automobiles or displaying political pictures or signs on private property.
(vi) Serving as precinct election officers at the polls.
(vii) Actively working for or against constitutional amendments, referendums, or municipal ordinances in which they are interested, provided that state time and resources are not used for this purpose.
(viii) Transporting friends or relatives to the polls.
(ix) Soliciting or handling political contributions.
(x) Soliciting the sale of or selling political party, faction, or candidate items or tickets. Employees may voluntarily purchase such items or tickets.
(xi) Preparing, organizing, or conducting a political meeting or rally, or addressing such a meeting on any partisan political matter.
(xii) Participating in a partisan activity at the polls (in primary or regular elections) in the position of checker, challenger, or watcher, or in soliciting votes and assisting voters to mark ballots.
(xiii) Distributing campaign literature or material.
(xiv) Initiating or circulating partisan political nominating petitions.
(xv) Canvassing a district or soliciting political support from a party, faction, or candidate, either in person or in writing.
SECTION 2.14 Practice of Law
While holding a position with the KCOJ, an employee or elected official who is an attorney must not engage in the practice of law outside the scope of his or her duties, except an employee or elected official may act pro se and may, without compensation, give legal advice to and draft or review documents for a member of his or her family. All employees and elected officials previously engaged in the practice of law shall cease all advertising upon employment by or election to the KCOJ.

Credits

Adopted by Order 2021-05, eff. 2-1-21
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Administrative Procedures, AP III, Sec. 2, KY ST ADMIN P AP III, Sec. 2
Current with amendments received through September 1, 2022. Some sections may be more current, see credits for details.
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