Valdez Youth Court FAQ
WHAT IS VALDEZ YOUTH COURT?
Valdez Youth Court provides the opportunity for youth ages 11-17 who are accused of breaking the law, to be judged by their peers. In Youth Court junior and high school students fill the role of attorneys, bailiff, judges, and clerk. Youth Court members develop and apply an understanding of the law through a training class. Graduating members become members of Youth Court’s Bar Association and participate in additional training to further their interests in the law. These meetings include activities, workshops, mock sentencing hearings, guest speakers, and field trips pertaining to the justice system. Other functions of the Bar Association include fund-raisers and social events.
Defendants are first time offenders who have admitted to misdemeanor crimes resulting in a referral to Youth Corrections. Youthful offenders are given a chance to participate in this program to resolve their criminal misconduct without receiving a formal record.
WHAT FUNCTIONS WILL YOUTH COURT MEMBERS PERFORM?
They will assume the roles of prosecuting attorneys, defense attorneys, bailiffs, and judges.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING A YOUTH COURT HEARING?
Youth Court defendants have already pleaded guilty or no contest to their crimes. The purpose of the hearing is to determine an appropriate sentence that will be restorative for the offender, and help them to repair their relationship with the community. Sentencing options include community service, strength-based projects, apology letters, and essays.
HOW DO I CONTACT VALDEZ YOUTH COURT?
The Valdez Youth Court office can be reached at 835-8885 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Members typically communicate via text thread. My cell is (907)255-8687. Confidential information will not be shared via text thread or email; students will work with paper copies of case information. The Youth Court also has a website- valdezyouthcourt.org and a Facebook page.
WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR PARTICIPATION?
Students should be in grades 7-12, have an interest in criminal law and be willing to commit to the time involved.
IS YOUTH COURT FOR REAL?
Youth Court receives referrals or real cases. from a Department of Juvenile Justice Juvenile Probation Officer and the local Valdez Judges. There are Youth Courts all across Alaska and across the United States.
IS THERE A TEST?
Yes. Students must pass a Bar Exam.
DOES EVERYONE WHO COMPLETES THE TRAINING HAVE TO PARTICIPATE IN COURT?
No. Only students who wish to do so will participate in Youth Court proceedings.
CAN MY FRIENDS AND PARENTS SIT IN ON A YOUTH COURT ARRAIGNMENT?
No, privacy and confidentiality laws for juvenile actions will not permit spectators. However, friends and family can be invited to mock trials, which are used for practice and where the defendants are played by volunteer actors.
WILL THERE BE OTHER ACTIVITIES ASIDE FROM COURT?
Yes. Members will attend a monthly Bar Association Meeting and other group activities. Members can also participate in fund-raisers and some members will have the opportunity to travel to statewide or even national events.
LAST YEAR I WAS PICKED UP FOR SHOPLIFTING; CAN I STILL JOIN YOUTH COURT?
Yes. Your experience will be very valuable in helping other students.
WHAT IF A MEMBER OF YOUTH COURT KNOWS THE DEFENDANT?
All proceedings must be impartial. It is likely that a member will know the defendant in Youth Court. Members must use their judgment and if they are not able to perform their role fairly they will need to excuse themselves and another student will fill that position.
DOES YOUTH COURT REALLY WORK?
Yes. Defendants who appear before Youth Court rarely get into trouble again.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE SENTENCING HEARING?
Youth Court staff follow-up on sentencing requirements to ensure the defendant is doing what was ordered by the court. If for some reason a defendant does not fulfill their sentence requirements, then the case is referred back to Youth Corrections or the Court for further action.
WHERE DOES YOUTH COURT GET CASES?
Referrals come from Youth Corrections or the District Court. Police departments, other agencies, or family members cannot make referrals to Youth Court. We may start getting referrals from the High School as well.