No city-run Teen Court in Maricopa due to jurisdictional issue; Scott Ghormley, family law attorney at Rose Law Group, comments

By Jay Taylor | InMaricopa

A city-run Teen Court under consideration by City Council likely will not move forward due to jurisdictional issues, based on feedback from a committee tasked with presenting “neutral findings” on the possibility.

Teen Court is a vehicle through which juveniles may have an incident adjudicated by their peers rather than in the court system. Youth volunteers act as prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and juries and mete out punishments, such as writing apology letters to those affected by the crime or performing volunteer duties in the community.

By having a case dealt with in Teen Court, perpetrators avoid a criminal record that could jeopardize college applications, job prospects or even the ability to rent an apartment.

A presentation of findings by the committee headed by Maricopa Organizational Health Supervisor Durel Williams at the Nov. 15 City Council meeting identified problems with such a court potentially operating under the city’s direction.

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“When courts are forced to make decisions where minor children are concerned, the goal should always be focused on what will be most beneficial to the kids. I see it most often in family law where courts implement the “best interests standard” to make orders regarding children. With some tweaks, “Teen Court” could be a really innovative way to teach young teens that there are consequences to bad choices without resorting to sending those teens through the juvenile court system. To me, giving kids the chance to reform in that setting could be far more beneficial, and would certainly serve the best interests of those kids more than juvenile court.”

Scott Ghormley, family law attorney at Rose Law Group

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