Peer/Youth Courts

peer youth court in session photoWhat is Youth/Peer Court?

Youth/Peer court is an alternative approach to the traditional juvenile justice system where youth charged with an offense have the option to waive the hearing and sentencing procedures of juvenile court and agree to a sentencing forum with a jury of the youth’s peers. Youth court is under the supervision of a judge and also includes youth defendants and volunteers who play a variety of roles in the judicial process, such as district attorney, public defender, bailiff or juror. Youth court is youth-focused and youth-driven. The youth court model provides youth the opportunity to acquire practical experience in the juvenile justice system.  Youth gain a better understanding of their rights, justice and the law, and are empowered to make better decisions in their daily lives.

How do I get referred to youth court?

While all youth courts are not exactly alike, most youth courts accept first time, non-violent offenders into the program. The process of being referred to a youth court may also differ slightly from court to court.  Below is what a typical referral process may look like:

  • Youth are referred by their school, juvenile probation or law enforcement;
  • The respondent and their parent/guardian meet with a youth court representative to register and sign an agreement and then receive detailed information about what to expect;
  • The youth court volunteer contacts the respondent to discuss their case;
  • The respondent attends youth court on their scheduled night and time to have their case heard;
  • After their case is heard, the youth respondent is given a sentence by a jury of their peers;
  • The respondent has a limited amount of time from the day of their trial to complete their sanctions;
  • After the respondent completes their sentence and their fees are paid in full, their case is closed and will not become a criminal record.  If they do not complete their sentence, the case is given back to probation.

Read more about youth courts, In Teen Courts, A Second Chance.

Is there a youth court in my county? Check the interactive California Youth Courts Map.

Youth Court Summit

Save the Date for 15th Annual Youth Court Summit - June 25-27, 2020The California Youth Court Summit will be held at  Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, CA on June 25 – 27, 2020. This year’s conference theme is “Empowering Youth to End the School to Prison Pipeline.”

The Youth Court Summit is a project of the Judicial Council’s Collaborative Justice Courts Advisory Committee, and is the primary training event for youth courts across the state. Since 2006, the California Youth Court Summit has been co-sponsored by the California Association of Youth Courts, Inc. (CAYC) [External link icon]  and is open to youth statewide.  The summit brings together youth and peer court staff, juvenile bench officers, education experts, judges, and staff of youth-focused organizations who share ideas and best practices about youth courts. Each year at the summit, youth are given the opportunity to lead their own discussions and offer ideas on how to improve youth courts.

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The Youth Court Summit is a project of the Judicial Council’s Collaborative Justice Courts Advisory Committee, and is the primary training event for youth courts across the state. Since 2006, the California Youth Court Summit has been co-sponsored by the California Association of Youth Courts, Inc. (CAYC) and is open to youth statewide.  The summit brings together youth and peer court staff, juvenile bench officers, education experts, judges, and staff of youth-focused organizations who share ideas and best practices about youth courts. Each year at the summit, youth are given the opportunity to lead their own discussions and offer ideas on how to improve youth courts.

2018 Youth Court Summit Video

Youth Court Regional Roundtables Trainings

The California Association of Youth Courts, Inc. (CAYC) is a statewide non-profit organization that was created to facilitate the exchange of information between existing and emerging California youth courts. The CAYC, in partnership with the Judicial Council’s Center for Families, Children & the Courts, offers informational roundtable trainings to interested local courts on developing effective and efficient youth court models in their jurisdictions. Whether you have an active youth court or you have been thinking about starting  a youth court, this training is for you.  Youth Courts provide a restorative approach to the traditional juvenile justice system for first-time, non-violent youth and are designed to educate youth about the juvenile justice system while addressing each juvenile’s accountability to his or her community and peers.

A two-day roundtable training on how to create a youth court or improve your youth court using restorative justice principles will be held on April 23-24, 2020 at the California Teachers’ Association of San Bernardino in San Bernardino, California.  More information to follow.

This training will cover a myriad of topics that are key to a successful youth court program.  If you are interested in learning more about youth courts using restorative justice principles, or you are interested in starting a youth court in your jurisdiction, please mark your calendars.

Youth Court Videos/Podcast

#JusticeForYouthByYouth - Listen to podcast (transcript):

In this first podcast on youth courts, you will hear from Joaquin Lang, a student who successfully completed youth court and became an advocate for this restorative justice program. Also on the podcast you will hear from three members of the California Association of Youth Courts, Inc.: Judge J. Richard Couzens; Debra Postil, a Senior Deputy District Attorney; and Don Carney, Director of the Marin Youth Court, on the success of the youth court program.

Watch this startling video created by youth at Tamalpais High School on “The Color of Youth Court

 “Let’s Rewrite the School-to-Prison Pipeline”, presented by Debra Postil, California Association of Youth Courts

The Peer Court Experience” by the Orange County Peer Court

YMCA Marin County Youth Court Trailer, “Finding Justice