Teen Court is a legally binding alternative system of justice that offers young offenders an opportunity to make restitution for their offenses through community service, educational classes, and jury service. The process enables eligible teens to take responsibility for their actions. Teen Court allows both offenders and teen volunteers to understand our system of justice better. Teen Court is typically in session on Thursdays at the Dan Buzzard Law Library.
There are two avenues for teenagers to become involved with the Teen Court program. As a defendant and as a volunteer.
As a defendant, twelve through seventeen-year-olds and others still enrolled in high school will have their cases heard before a jury of their peers for sentencing. A verdict will be rendered that includes community service hours, classes, workshops, fees, and at least one jury term.
In Teen Court, teen defense and prosecution attorneys present their cases to a jury of teens. The attorneys call witnesses, ask questions of the defendant, and argue the case before the jury. The jurists then deliberate the facts of the arguments and return a verdict. In some situations, a Grand Jury actively participates directly between the jurors and the defendant.
Defendants are allowed ninety days to complete their sentences and jury term(s). The completion of the Teen Court sentence, including payment of fees, results in automatic dismissal of the case, so it is not a conviction on the teen’s record.
Volunteering: How Do I Volunteer To Help With Teen Court?
Teen court volunteers, under the guidance of adults, present the case, deliberate, and construct a sentence for teens who have been referred to Teen Court
Qualifications for Volunteers
Teen volunteers must be at least 14 years of age. They must demonstrate an ability to treat each case individually, with objectivity and without prejudice. They must have an ability to communicate with their peers, work in a group setting, and be able to maintain confidentiality of all cases.
Prospective Teen Court Members must attend an initial all-day training session. Training sessions are held three times a year. Teen Court staff conducts the trainings and teach the steps of becoming a Teen Court member. The volunteer will then serve as an assistant member for 3-5 months before advancing to associate member. After serving as an associate for one 4-month term, the volunteer will then be eligible to apply to become a lead member. Volunteers do not have to be Curry County residents.
Local attorneys are welcome to apply to volunteer as Teen Court judges.
Volunteer attorneys will attend court sessions as scheduled, follow the guidelines in the Teen Court manual, maintain confidentiality, treat all participants with respect, represent your client (defense attorneys) or the State of New Mexico (prosecutors) to the best of their ability, attend all trainings, and follow the court rules. Volunteer attorneys are expected to dress professionally; for girls this means a dress, skirt/blouse, or pantsuit, and for boys a dress shirt and tie (coat is optional). Jeans are NOT allowed.
All Teen Court members are expected to participate as a member of a teen jury. They are expected to listen objectively to the court hearing about the offense and the circumstances surrounding the offense; and then assign consequences designed to hold the defendant responsible for his or her actions.
A minimum of one night per month for jurors/bailiffs etc., a minimum of 2 nights per month for Attorneys.
Length of Commitment
We schedule by four-month terms. At the end of the term, you will be given the opportunity to commit to another term.
- Volunteers must be dependable! If a volunteer misses two of their scheduled court sessions without giving advance notice, they will be removed from the Teen Court program.
- Volunteers must be flexible! There are always last-minute changes on court nights, and we expect volunteers to be willing to serve where you are needed.
- Volunteers must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.25.
Adults can apply to help with:
- Checking-in of jurors
- Making jury assignments
- Overseeing the courtrooms
- Handling checkout of defendants