Youth Court, founded in 2007, is a program based on a national program developed by the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). The Youth Court is a voluntary alternative to Family Court and the criminal justice system. It is organized and run by teens, adjudicating misdemeanor cases involving other teens with the goal of reducing juvenile delinquency. Youth Court members serve in the roles of Judge, Prosecutor, Defense Attorney, Jury, Clerk, and Bailiff. The legal and binding procedure determines a fair and restorative sentence in the form of community service hours for the youth offender.
The program offers these teens an opportunity to assume responsibility for their actions; it also promotes a desire for self-improvement, fosters a healthy understanding of and attitude toward rules and authority, and provides a chance to learn about the justice system. Youth Court also offers parents and the community a constructive and positive means to hold youthful offenders accountable for problem behaviors, including behavior that previously may have received little or no attention from the criminal justice system, or when corrective responses by parents, guardians, or the community have had little or no impact.
Youth Court volunteer members range in age from 13 to 19. They complete a comprehensive training program overseen by professionals in the field, including police officers, social workers, members of the District Attorney's office, and other sectors of the legal community. It concludes with a mock trial and bar exam to ensure that the volunteer members have achieved the necessary knowledge and confidence to fulfill their roles.
The 2015-2016 Youth Court Class is full. Please make sure you check back in the early fall to sign up in 2016!
Judge Raniolo, Nancy Levin, Esq. and Judge Lagonia work closely with Youth Court members to share their expertise and knowledge.
“Without Youth Court, I never would have been able to explore my interests in the legal system. It’s one thing to watch cases or hear about them, but being able to actually witness, participate and take on roles in real-live cases in our community is an incredible, life-changing experience.” – Nicole, Member of Youth Court
"I was the defense attorney in one particular case, and after sentencing, I was personally thanked by the respondent and her parents. Seeing the sincere appreciation in her eyes showed me exactly why I choose to serve my community. Every experience that Youth Court provides has been truly gratifying." - Matthew, Member of Youth Court
"After many sessions of training in confidentiality, public speaking, documentary review, and case assessment, the Youth Court students take a Bar Exam and then are sworn in as members of the Youth Court. Just seeing them devote time and effort to learning something new and interesting and watching them develop into young attorneys right before my eyes." - Nancy Levin, Director of Youth Court
Vincent addresses the court at a mock trial.