Pro-Bono Service Information
Teen Court is a sentencing hearing for first time juvenile offenders, covering misdemeanor and an occasional felony charge. Volunteer teen attorneys, bailiffs, and jurors conduct the hearings. The only adult in the proceedings is the judge. The judges are bar-certified attorneys or actual judges who volunteer their time to Teen Court. The sentencing hearings consist of an opening statement, direct and cross examinations, and closing arguments. The judge instructs the jury with sentencing guidelines and sentences the defendant based upon the verdict of the teen jury. The sentences are required to contain some provision of community service (10-55 hours for misdemeanors, 55-75 hours for felonies) and jury duty (1-6 nights for misdemeanors, 5-8 nights for felonies). In addition, the sentence may contain other sanctions such as: essays, apology letters, weekly school reports, retail theft class/chemical education class, etc.
Another mandatory element of the sentence is attendance at our "Rap Session" which is a counselor-guided peer circle that takes place every Tuesday evening before the start of the regular hearings.
The law student's responsibilities include:
∗ Arrive at 5:30 pm to be present for case assignments and any announcements. During this time you will receive a docket for the case(s) that you will be responsible for critiquing.
∗ Between the 5:30 and 6:45, you will work with your assigned team, Defense or Prosecution. Your job will be to help the teen attorneys develop their case strategy by first getting a feel for what they think is important and then helping them expand on those thoughts. --You may ask any questions of the defendant that you think the attorneys have missed, as well as, provide any input that you think might be helpful to their case(s).
∗ The first hearing will begin at 6:45pm. During this time you are responsible for taking notes on the performance of the attorneys (both sides) during the presentation of their case(s). Things to watch for include: basic argument skills, objections that should or should not have been made, questioning skills, professionalism, and anything else that you think would be helpful to bring out at debriefing.
∗ During jury deliberations you will serve as juror observers.
∗ When all of the hearings are complete, debriefing takes place in the courtroom. At this point, you may present your critique of the attorneys.
If you have any questions please contact:
Jessica G.T. Pitts
Case Coordinator, Program Manager
Phone: (850) 577-4468
Fax: (850) 487-7947