Teen Court Program Recognizes Law Day
by Clara Colmenero
PHOENIX (May 3, 2023) – The Judicial Branch of Arizona in Maricopa County, in partnership with the Safe Schools Focus on Excellence Youth Program, celebrated Law Day by hosting a Teen Court on May 3. Every year, Law Day is observed nationally on May 1 to celebrate the rule of law.
During the celebration, approximately 50 high school students participated in Teen Court to present real-life cases involving youth while several Superior Court judges observed. Teen Court volunteers were given courtroom roles such as judge, prosecuting attorney, defense attorney, jury, courtroom assistant, clerk, and victim advocate.
“My understanding is that several of the participants have an interest in pursuing a career within the court system to include probation officers as well as attorneys,” said Commissioner Genene Dyer. “Judges observing a Teen Court case can provide feedback to participants in various roles which often furthers a participant’s interest in pursuing a career in law.”
Teen Court is a diversion program that offers youth an opportunity to learn from their mistakes and serves as a pathway toward offense resolution without a formal court process. Teen Court youth volunteers do not determine guilt or innocence but learn about the court process by assigning restorative justice consequences to hold peers accountable using established guidelines. Examples of constructive consequences include jury service, community service hours, essays, restitution, letters of apology, counseling and skill-building classes.
“Teen Court is a labor of love and a collaborative effort with our various community partners to train children and youth ages 8-17 to serve as leaders within their school and their community. Our Law Day Theme is Rebuilding Trust, Respect for Others, Restorative Justice,” said Pamela Neal, the Safe Schools Focus on Excellence Youth Program founder. “We are super excited and thankful to the retired City of Phoenix Judge Carol Berry, and the entire Maricopa County Teen Court team for their support of the Teen Court leaders from The Academies at South Mountain High School and Hope Academy. Action changes things and Teen Court is changing lives in the courtroom, in the school and the community.”
Neal, a former Maricopa County juvenile probation officer, founded the Safe Schools Focus on Excellence Youth Program in 2000 to help deter criminal activity and prevent crime among youth by offering structured programs centered around law-related education, character development and training.
Teen Court may be used as an alternative to suspension from school or utilized as an alternative to a formal police complaint for theft or other misdemeanors.
“The importance of seeing real Teen Court cases allow for judges to first learn about the program, see how the cases are conducting and ultimately be a voice in supporting the value of Teen Court i.e., resolving matters outside of a formal court proceeding,” said Commissioner Dyer.
For more information, visit: https://superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/juvenile-probation/teen-court/
The Judicial Branch of Arizona in Maricopa County is comprised of Superior Court, Adult Probation and Juvenile Probation, which includes juvenile detention. The Judicial Branch in Maricopa County is the fourth largest trial court system in the nation and, along with its 3,000 employees, is dedicated to providing a safe, fair and impartial forum for resolving disputes, enhancing access to services, and providing innovative, evidence-based practices that improve the safety of the community and ensure the public’s trust and confidence in the Judicial Branch. For more information, visit superiorcourt.maricopa.gov.