The City of Lufkin is seeking participants and sponsors as it kicks off its new Teen Court program this fall.
The program provides area high school students an opportunity to learn more about criminal justice and the court system while serving as jurors, bailiffs, prosecuting attorneys, or defense attorneys. Teen Court enables teens who pled guilty or no contest to certain Class C misdemeanors to have their case tried by peers.
“Teen court volunteers will be presenting the case, introducing all evidence, and questioning the witnesses, including the police officers who wrote the citation,” City Attorney Kristi Skillern said. “For the juvenile defendants, it is an opportunity for reduced court costs, accountability, and the ability to have the citation dismissed if the sentence is completed.”
The sentence would also include community service and future jury service on the Teen Court as well as any other requirements of the judge.
“This program is basically a “win-win” for all parties involved,” Skillern said. “The community also benefits from reducing court backlog, reducing future cases by teaching accountability, and creating community service opportunities for teens in the area.”
The program is overseen by Skillern, Lufkin Municipal Court Administrator Lisa Ramos, Judge Chad Vier, and Juvenile Case Manager Cara Blair. The City recently added Blair to its LMC team as she has a degree in social work and a heart for children.
“Teen Court will teach our youth the importance of accountability and communication, while changing their perspective on law enforcement and the legal system,” Blair said. “I believe everyone has a purpose in life, and that purpose becomes a passion that allows us to make an impact on the ones that we are helping.”
Teen Court is currently seeking participants for the 2023-’24 school year. Interested students must apply by Sept. 1.
Applications for teen court volunteers are available online at Teen Court Volunteer Application - Formstack.
Teen Court will be held once a month. (Tentative) docket dates:
- Oct. 23, 2023
- Nov. 13, 2023
- No docket in December due to finals and holidays
- Jan. 29, 2024
Participants must be enrolled in an Angelina County high school (or homeschool) for the 2023-2024 school year, available during court dates, and willing to commit for one school year.
Students selected from the applicant pool must attend training on Sept. 22, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Lufkin Municipal Court at 222 E. Shepherd Ave. Attorneys and bailiffs will be chosen, and the remainder will serve as jurors.
In addition to learning about criminal justice and the legal system, Teen Court benefits include community involvement and skill development in critical thinking, teamwork, and public speaking.