Fayette County, WV – October 19, 2021 – Fayette County Teen Court has conducted its eighth hearing since the program’s start in Fall 2019. Teen Court is an alternate option for youth who are getting in trouble, either in school or the community. Youth are from grades 7th through 12th with offenses that would be considered a misdemeanor. Our most common offense heard in Teen Court is minors in possession of tobacco and possession of tobacco on school property.
There are two main differences between Teen Court and traditional court. The first being the teen aspect. Youth volunteers in the same grade bracket as our offenders serve in all court roles including defense and prosecuting attorney, clerk, bailiff and jury. These youth volunteers receive community service for volunteering.
The second difference is in traditional court, a jury determines guilt or innocence. That is not what we do in Teen Court. Our jury determines how the juvenile can repair the harm that was done by their actions to themselves, their family and their community. Alternate options include mandatory community service of at least 16 hours, mandatory Teen Court jury for at least 2 cases, prevention and education programs offered through the Youth Reporting Center, essays, apologies, etc. Referrals for Teen Court participation are received from Fayette County Schools, Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, and Law Enforcement Officers.
On October 18, 2021, E. Scott Stanton served as Teen Court Judge and conducted one hearing. Ten youth volunteers served on the jury and listened intently while case information was read and oaths were given, swearing all participants to keep the proceedings of Teen Court confidential. Two youth attorneys gave opening statements, direct questioning of the juvenile and their parent, and closing statements, asking the jury to make a fair but just decision. Youth attorneys are mentored by practicing attorneys local to Fayette County.
The jury made their way to a separate room to conduct “jury deliberation”, along side Diane Callison, Teen Court Coordinator and Tara Harmon, Adult Jury Advocate to answer any questions. When deliberation completed, all members returned to the main meeting for Mr. Stanton to give the disposition. Juveniles and their parent/guardian have a right to reject the disposition given by the jury and return to their referring agency for traditional disciplinary procedure. The juvenile and parent in this case accepted the disposition and have three months to comply with orders.
Youth interested in volunteering can complete the volunteer application here: https://forms.gle/ZGgZPeciUjMXBFwE8.