Young people sometimes make bad decisions that can have lifetime consequences, especially if they get caught up in the adult criminal justice system.

For this reason, the New York State Bar Association urges the Assembly and the Senate to pass legislation to allow the disposition of certain cases in Youth Court, where youths are held accountable for their actions by their peers.

"Youth Courts have proven to be an effective tool in reducing recidivism, encouraging community participation and civic activity, instilling respect for the law and the legal system, and discouraging youths from engaging in criminal behavior as adults," said Bar Association President Seymour W. James, Jr. of New York City (The Legal Aid Society).

In June 2010, then-State Bar President Stephen P. Younger created a Special Committee on Youth Courts led by former Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye (Skadden, Arps) and Schenectady attorney Patricia L.R. Rodriguez (Law Office of Patricia L.R. Rodriguez). The committee studied the effectiveness of existing Youth Courts, developed pilot programs and initiated other activities to establish and support Youth Courts around the state.

There are more than 80 Youth Courts operating in New York and about 1,200 throughout the United States. Some municipalities have been reluctant to establish their own Youth Courts without a better statutory framework for their operation - which is what this legislation would establish.

The legislation, S.7758 (Saland)/A.10708-A (Lentol), would provide the statutory structure for courts to refer non-felony cases, involving individuals age 19 or under, to a Youth Court for sanction and disposition. The legislation would provide for the District Attorney's consent before a case could be referred to Youth Court.Defendants would agree to accept the disposition meted out by the Youth Court, which often is counseling, restitution or community service. The criminal case would be adjourned in contemplation of dismissal with the understanding that the individual successfully fulfills the Youth Court sentence.

For a list of Youth Courts in New York State, visit the Association of New York State Youth Courts website at www.nysyouthcourts.org/directory.

The New York State Bar Association, with 77,000 members, is the largest voluntary state bar association in the country. It was founded in 1876.

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Contact: Mark Mahoney
Associate Director, Media Services & Public Affairs
mmahoney@nysba.org
518-487-5532