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Youth Court Diversion Program Successfully Launches; Law Students Gain Experience


troubled teenager

Cincinnati’s Youth Court – a diversion program for teens arrested for minor misdemeanors and who have already admitted guilt – successfully launched its pilot program on May 14, 2014. The program is a collaboration between CALL (Cincinnati Academy of Leadership for Lawyers), a program sponsored by the Cincinnati Bar Association and Judge John John Williams of the Hamilton County Juvenile Court.

Rather than be heard before a judge in Juvenile Court, cases are presented to a jury of peers in Youth Court.   Youth Court pursues multiple goals at the same time.  First, it holds young people accountable for their actions by requiring them to accept responsibility and pay back the community.  Youth Court sanctions emphasize restoration, encouraging respondents to make amends through such actions as performing community service and writing letters of apology.  Second, Youth Court provides participants with experiential learning that is designed to complement classroom lessons about government.  Youth Court members learn first-hand how courts work, stepping into the role of jurors.

The program utilizes local attorneys and law student volunteers serving as “judges”, “prosecutors” and “defense counsel”.  The program debuted last week and is far exceeding expectations. Amanda Bleiler ’15, Simar Khera’15 and Melissa Schuett’14 helped launch the program by working with and advocating for the teens. Bleiler said, “I'm really excited that CALL is supporting the Youth Court program.  In my opinion the more specialty dockets Cincinnati has the better.  This is an especially important program because not only does it allow us law students to get involved and gain courtroom experience, it helps make these teenager’s first (and hopefully last) encounter with the criminal justice system a positive one that they can learn from.”  Additional College of Law students are slated to participate in upcoming hearings.

Youth Court is expected to last eight (8) sessions through August at the Youth Center, with the intent to continue as a formal program with fall, spring, and summer sessions thereafter.  For more information about the program or how to get involved, contact Katherine Miltner.