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October 25, 2010

STATE BAR'S SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON YOUTH COURTS MAKES THE CASE FOR ESTABLISHING A YOUTH COURT IN ALBANY

Committee to Hold Informational Kickoff Event at the State Bar Center on October 26th in Support of Youth Courts

Colonie Youth Court Participants Will Perform Special Demonstration of Youth Court Hearing 

Seeking to build on the success of youth courts established in recent years throughout the Capital Region, members of the New York State Bar Association's Special Committee on Youth Courts will hold an informational forum in support of the creation of a youth court in Albany. The forum, which will be attended by several leaders of the legal, law enforcement and education communities in the Capital Region, will be held on Tuesday, October 26 at 6:30 p.m. at the State Bar Center, located at 1 Elk Street in Albany. The forum also will be webcast live that evening at www.totalwebcasting.com/live/nysbar.

Representatives from the Colonie and Bethlehem Youth Courts, as well as the Syracuse City School District Student Court, also will be on-hand to discuss the day-to-day operations of youth courts, with a particular focus on recruiting volunteer staff, training youth to serve on the courts, and building relationships with referral agencies. Members of the Colonie Youth Court will then perform a special demonstration of a mock youth court hearing for those in attendance.
 
State Bar President-Elect Vincent E. Doyle III of Buffalo (Connors & Vilardo LLP) will provide welcoming remarks to attendees at the event. Special Committee on Youth Courts co-chairs Judith S. Kaye, former Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of the State of New York, and Patricia L.R. Rodriguez (Law Offices of Patricia L. R. Rodriguez) will discuss the different models of youth courts currently in operation and the types of offenses commonly referred to such courts.

"The State Bar proudly supports youth courts and their mission of providing a juvenile justice alternative that is operated for and by young people." said Doyle. "The young people participating in the highly-successful youth courts established in the Capital Region and throughout New York encounter a life-changing experience. Better than any classroom, it teaches the participants about our justice system, while delivering a powerful message to youth offenders about the negative consequences of their actions. Albany would benefit greatly from a youth court."

Created by State Bar Association President Stephen P. Younger of New York (Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP), the Special Committee on Youth Courts is examining what roles the Bar Association can play in strengthening youth courts, defining best practices, identifying locations where new youth courts can be established, and developing strategies for raising funds to support the initiative. 
 
"We have an obligation to nurture young people because their future depends on it - and so does ours," said President Younger. "Youth courts use positive peer pressure to ensure that young people in trouble pay back their communities and receive the help they need to avoid further brushes with the law. I want to commend Judge Kaye, Patricia Rodriguez, and the members of the Special Committee for their outstanding efforts to promote the many benefits that youth courts bring to our communities." 

"The stakes for juveniles today could not be higher, and youth courts are a key part of the solution for a juvenile justice system that is currently in a state of crisis," Judge Kaye said. "Youth courts provide the right message and the right messenger to educate young people about the law and about the importance of civic participation. This forum will provide a wonderful opportunity for attendees to share ideas on how to strengthen and expand the state's youth courts to make them a model for New York and the world." 

There are more than 100 youth courts currently operating throughout New York, including in the Capital Region municipalities of Bethlehem, Colonie, Niskayuna, and Saratoga Springs. Participating teens are trained to serve as jurors, judges and attorneys, and hear real-life cases of their peers involving offenses such as truancy, school fighting, vandalism, and shoplifting. Sanctions from the courts typically include community service, letters of apology, essays and counseling.  The courts are overseen by volunteer judges, attorneys, educators, and law enforcement officials and use positive peer pressure to ensure that young people who commit even minor offenses give back to the community and avoid further involvement in the justice system.

Earlier this year, youth court advocates from across New York gathered at the State Bar Center for a statewide New York State Youth Court Conference. Hosted by The New York Bar Foundation, and co-sponsored by the Center for Court Innovation, the Association of New York State Youth Courts, and New York State Courts Access to Justice, the conference consisted of several workshops designed to help participants learn about ways to support, advance and strengthen New York's youth court system. In addition, The Bar Foundation's Judith S. Kaye Youth Court Fund provides financial support through grant awards for activities of youth courts throughout the state. 

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Founded in 1876, the 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New York and the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. The State Bar's programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years. For more information, visit us at our website at www.nysba.org.