Thursday, November 28, 2013


By Diana Hefley, Herald Writer The boy was stressed out and distracted, the jury agreed. He also already works 22 hours a week outside of school. How much community service would be sufficient to send a message and hold him accountable for his actions? The prosecutors asked for 20 hours. The defense suggested eight hours. Jurors settled on the boy's punishment: 12 hours of community service, a one-page letter about the dangers of inattentive driving, and two sessions volunteering with the court. They filed out into the packed courtroom, ready to give their verdict. The boy's case was one of three heard earlier this month in the Bothell Youth Court, a blossoming program geared at raising awareness among young drivers and holding them accountable for their mistakes. The court also provides about two dozen high school kids the opportunity to interact with college students and local lawyers. "We're not only potentially saving lives but we're also training our future leaders," Bothell Municipal Court Judge Michelle Gehlsen said. The youth court began last year out of a partnership between the city, University of Washington Bothell and local high schools. Young drivers facing their first traffic offenses are offered the option of having their cases heard in the youth court. They must admit they've committed the infractions and agree to the alternative sentences offered by the court, which focuses on restorative justice. Once they complete the requirements, the citation can be dropped off their driving records. "I think young drivers are going to learn more from their mistakes this way then just paying the ticket," Bothell High School junior Emma Yamamoto said. All the court's participants are high school students. They act as the lawyers, judges, jurors, clerk and bailiff. They attend training sessions with UW Bothell college students and receive advice from local attorneys. They volunteer about 20 hours a month to research the cases, meet with the teen drivers and attend the night court hearings. Yamamoto, who has a relative in law enforcement, began volunteering to "get experience with the court system." "I wanted to learn how people my age are affected by the law," she said. So far, she sees that it's not just the ticketed drivers who are taking away some important lessons. "I think everyone can learn from them," she said. In some cases, firefighters have testified about what they see when they respond to crashes. That testimony hits home for some of the teens, Gehlsen said. Sydney Kramer, a Bothell High School junior, was both a prosecutor and defense attorney at the court's most recent session. In the first case, she questioned Bothell Fire Marshal Frank Shasky about the dangers of distracted driving. "The first thing to remember is if you're distracted, it's an impairment," Shasky said. Kramer is interested in going to law school. That's why she joined the court. She serves as the youth president for the court's community advisory board. She likes working with the attorneys, who coach her how to ask better questions of witnesses. The 16-year-old said she also enjoys meeting with the respondents and talking to them before the court hearings. She asks about their grades and activities outside of school. She questions them about their driving and the circumstances that led to their tickets. "As the respondent's advocate we want them to be seen as people, and that they are truly sorry," she said. Kramer, who doesn't have her driver's license yet, thinks some respondents understand the value of being able to make up for their mistakes. Others, she said, are just relieved they don't have to pay the ticket. "If we can change a least one person's behavior, whether it's speeding or texting, that's what counts," she said.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Overlooked a Great Resource for Youth Courts

I am posting a link to a great resource for folks interested in youth courts. Scott Peterson formerly from the US Department of Justice and big supporter of youth courts has his own Global Youth Justice program to support youth courts. The weblink is You'll find lots of great resources and announcements. Go, Scott!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


The annual youth court conference, sponsored by the Administrative Office of the Court (AOC) and the Washington State Association of Youth Courts, drew about 60 individuals for an exciting and education program. Special Advisor Margaret Fisher opened the meeting with an overview of youth courts. Harmeen Kaur, Outgoing Student President led an engaging ice breaker. What followed was a session reported by many as the most compelling presentation they had ever experienced- on the very current issue of social media safety. Two experts from British Columbia, Darren and Beth Laur of Professional Protection Systems, Incl. described various social media safety challenges and also gave the audience real tools to protect themselves.

Outgoing President Terri Cooper, Coordinator of the Cheney Youth Traffic Court led a concurrent session of youth court coordinators and interested community members on how to establish a youth court and brainstormed solutions to issues facing youth courts today.

Charley Bates from AOC ran the elections for new officers. The officers for 2013 are President J.A of Bothell Youth Court, Student President Elijah Haynes of the Seattle Youth Traffic Court, returning Vice-President Tracey Lassus of Clallam County Youth Court, Student Vice-President Maddie Snowden of Bothell Youth Court, permanent Secretary/Treasurer Susan Goettsch, and Special Advisor Margaret Fisher.

Seattle Police Detective Megan Bruneau and Marie Hoffman of the Washington Anti-Trafficking Response Network explored myths about what human trafficking is and what can be done about in Washington.

The program concluded with a dynamic presentation by former prosecutor Andrea Jamon and defense attorney Josei Wiggs-Martin on tips for questioning witnesses. Everyone left the conference highly energized, even those students who left home that Saturday morning at 5 a.m. to get to the conference.

Statewide Youth Court Training 10-26-2013


Friday, September 20, 2013


Please join us for the annual Statewide Youth Court Training! Where: Seattle University School of Law When: Saturday, October 26, 2013 Time: 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. This year the conference will include: Social Media Protection educating young people about their personal vulnerability on the Internet. Human Trafficking Education on the current issue of immigrants and teens being forced into servitude. Art of Effective Questioning presented by experienced litigators to help youth advocates ask the right questions and follow-up on information presented in court. Implementing a Youth Court for communities interested in establishing a youth court. Annual Meeting and Election of Student Vice-President. Geocaching. To Register: Please call Paula Odegaard at (360) 705-5214

Friday, August 2, 2013


2013 Summer Forum: "Introduction to Street Law and iCivics" with Margaret Fisher (Attorney Educator, Office of the Courts), "How to Determine Legislative Intent" with State Supreme Court Justice Mary Fairhurst, others. Washington Legislative Scholar Program held on Thursday July 18th 2013, 2:45PM 2013 Summer Forum: Please click here to watch video or paste this url into your browser address bar:

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Cheney Youth Court Presents Anti-Distracted Driving Program to Peers

Firefighter Tim Steiner presents "Think First, Think Again"
to Cheney High School Students 
On April 25th Cheney Youth Court, located in Eastern Washington, sponsored an anti-distracted driving program to all Juniors and Seniors at their local high school. Through a partnership between the Cheney Youth Court, the local Fire Department, and Cheney High School administration “Think-First, Think-Again” has become an annual event presented just days before Prom and a few weeks before Graduation. Its purpose is to emphasize safe driving practices like wearing your seat belt, committing to not texting and driving, and not getting into a car with drivers that have been drinking. “Think-First, Think-Again” has become such a valued and successful program that Principal Troy Heuett stated, “of all the programs that are cut when schedules get tight, this is not one of them…this is too important to miss”.

Student drivers sign their names committing to "lose the distractions!"

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Clallam County Teen Court has done many different fundraisers over the years to raise money for our Teen Court kids to go to trainings at the Seattle University Law School and to take educational trips annually.  Some of our trips have included: going to Washington DC to visit the Holocaust museum and attend the Supreme Court, to Louisiana to participate in one of their Teen Courts and to meet Supreme Court Justice Bernadette Johnson and to Idaho to meet Sheriff Ben Wolffinger the Sheriff of Coeur d’Alene.   The last couple of years, due to budget issues and the amount of Teen Court kids we have, we had to limit the youth going on the trips to those that are Senior’s in High School. 
Our fundraisers have included selling McDonalds coupon books, participating in a McTakeover, car washes, selling Macy’s coupons and recently we ordered Ozark lollipops to sell.   Usually this time of year we do our annual Easter Bake a thon.  Our local radio station, KONP, puts our Teen Court kids on the air from 6 am to noon for one day.  The radio announcer asks the kids questions about Teen Court i.e. what Teen Court is, why they joined, how it’s run, what kind of cases they hear, what the consequences are,  if they feel it’s effective etc.  We have our kids voluntarily sign up for 1 hr slots and we ask their parents to answer the phones to take orders and write down the donations…the Kids let the public know that it is a fundraiser to raise money to send our Teen Court kids to training at the Seattle University law school and on educational trips. We have the kids announce the orders (people donating get to pick from banana bread, carrot cake or apple/peach fritters) and amount of the donations when they come in.   People and businesses have also called in and challenged others to beat their donation. We have the Teen Court parents/kids bake banana bread, carrot cake and we order apple/peach fritters from our local donut shop. 
This really gives our Teen Court kids an opportunity to learn more public speaking skills and to have fun at the same time.  It’s also great for the community to hear about Teen Court and to realize that we have incredible young adults that are doing great things and giving back to their community in a positive way. 
Submitted by Kim Burns - Clallam County Youth Court

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


February 26, 2013

During the 2001-2002 school year, the Thurston County Youth Court Program was developed in cooperation with the River Ridge High School, North Thurston Public Schools, Thurston County Prosecutor's Office, YMCA, Washington State Bar Association, Community Youth Services, Thurston County Juvenile/Court Probation and the Superior Court Judges and Court Commissioners for Thurston County.  In 2004, the program expanded to include truancy violations from schools and juvenile court.  For many years, the program was directed by Thurston County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Rick Peters.  In 2011, the Youth Court Program did not hold meetings or hearings for the first time since the 2001-2002 school year. 

The Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney's Office has been working to revive our Youth Court Program and is actively recruiting students from our local high schools.  A training for students is set for Saturday, March 2, 2013, and Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Rick Peters has graciously donated his time and agreed to lead the training and share some of his expertise learned from his many years as program coordinator.  Once the students are trained in the Peer Jury Youth Court model, the Court will accept truancy cases from the Thurston County Juvenile Court and hopes to hold hearings over the last few months of the school year.

As the new coordinator of our program, I recognize the long standing tradition and history of the Youth Court Program.  It is my hope that we will be able to revitalize the program and teach program participants about the principals of restorative justice and the Washington State legal system.  The process of rebuilding the program has been slower than anticipated, but as we start small, we will rebuild the infrastructure and hopefully develop a base of returning students who will keep the program going for many years to come.

Thank you for the opportunity to share a little information about our program.

Joe Jackson
Thurston County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney/Youth Court Coordinator

Monday, February 11, 2013


Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Court of their peers serves justice for young drivers

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@

Coordinator Joe Jackson reports that their youth court student training will be held March 2, 2013.  Former Washington State Association of Youth Courts President Rick Peters will be lending a hand to train the students.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Seattle Youth Traffic Court receives Youth Civic Education Award from Seattle CityClub

2012 Colleen Willoughby Youth Civic Education Award 

Seattle CityClub

Explaining the program

Presenting the Youth Court to the audience

Youth Court members at the awards ceremony; Garfield volunteers holding the award check!

Live Hearing - Seattle Youth Traffic Court at National Council for the Social Studies 2012

Seattle Youth Traffic Court conducted a hearing as part of the National  Council for the
Social Studies in Seattle 2012.

Prosecutor explains the victim's report of the accident caused by the defendant.

Garfield High School volunteers and Law Student Mentors with Coordinator at National   Council for the Social Studies.

Law student mentor explains to audience what youth court is about.

Presiding Juror announces the disposition.

High School Student explains benefits of Youth Court.