period of time. The defense advocate
provides the defense’s recommended
restorative justice sentence.
In BYC the respondent is not required to make a statement to the jury;
however observation of several sessions
provides anecdotal evidence that such
statements weigh heavily on the jury’s
consideration of the case.
Although teen participants start as
jurors, the role of a juror is not easy.
First, the jury decision must be unanimous. Second, every juror must be
heard. Finally, their decision must meet
the goals of restorative justice.
Judge Suzanne Parisien, who pro-
vides oversight and guidance on be-
half of King County Superior Court,
has said that as a judge she hears that
people feel good about fulfilling their
civic duty through jury service. Pari-
sien asks, “Why should the experience
be limited to adults? With so much de-
bate and discussion happening in our
country right now regarding the crim-
inal justice system, it is even more im-
portant that young people be thinking
about the concept of restorative justice,
even on a smaller level.”
The teen participants have been
taught during their training and
reminded by the prosecution and
defense advocates that restorative
justice has three elements: account-
ability, competency development, and
community protection. Typically, ac-
countability is addressed through res-
titution. Competency building comes
from attending workshops, writing es-
says about the impact of their actions
to the community, and writing apology
letters to victims and the respondent’s
family. The community protection
component often involves community
service, including having to partic-
ipate in the youth court as a future
member of the jury, or other activities
involving the respondent in positive
activities that benefit the community
and get the respondent involved with
a new circle of peers.
While this can lead to a long deliberation, in the end the verdicts are remarkably tailored to fit both the respondent
and the crime.
When the City of Bellevue was con-
sidering the youth court as a program
in 2006, King County Juvenile Court
was adjudicating 4,700 youth-related
Bloomenthal joined the BYC because she has a passion for law and
justice and hopes to attend law school in the future. Her participation
allows her to improve her analytical and public speaking skills. Also,
her work for youth court is recognized as service hours by her school
(Lakeside requires 80 hours of community service for graduation).
Bloomenthal knows the importance of every role in the courtroom
and has served in all roles, but most enjoys being an advocate, particularly for the defense. She sees the defense advocate’s role as telling the
respondent’s real story. She’s learned it’s not about winning or beating
the other side, it’s about doing the right thing for the respondent. She
believes it is important, in every role, to have empathy and compassion for the respondent.
As a judge, Bloomenthal says she sees the court differently. She
says the role of the judge is not to determine rights or wrongs, but to
make sure that court is carried out in an orderly and serious manner.
The sense of importance weighs heavier on her because, like all the
roles, she will impact another youth’s life for the next six months, and
she feels she has to show authority and control to manage the process.
She endeavors to listen and not show bias, which can be challenging at
times. The jury sometimes asks questions, and it is the job of the judge
to decide whether or not these questions are relevant and should be
answered. Bloomenthal has worked to build many new competencies
in her career at BYC, but the hardest task comes as a judge when she
has to let the advocates make their statements and the jury reach their
verdict without letting any personal opinions affect the proceedings.
She is working with her peers at BYC to develop new sentencing
guidelines and training programs in an effort to help the courts avoid
simply falling into using formulas for sentences. Bloomenthal along
with Stephens and another volunteer have instituted another option
for sentencing called “preventative sentencing.” Its goal is to help the
respondent learn the repercussions of their actions by helping prevent other occurrences of the same offense. This sentencing encourages creativity from the jurors which benefits the respondent and the
state, by maximizing restorative justice.
In her role as student vice president, Bloomenthal has the opportunity
to see how other youth courts in the state work and help develop youth
court programs throughout the state, including helping with the planning for the Washington State Courts Association annual conference.
A Youth Court Participant Profile
criminal cases per year. At that time,
the City of Bellevue and King County
agreed that BYC would hear a maximum of two cases per month during
the school year.
7 In 2015, 994 felony charges and 4,099 misdemeanor
charges were filed against youth in
King County, and in the 2015-16 court
year, the 106 participants of the BYC
heard nine court cases.
A key goal of youth courts is to re-
duce recidivism. Despite the fact that
youth courts have been functioning
for some time, there are few studies
on their impact. A 2002 evaluation
of youth courts examined a court in
Anchorage, Alaska, which used a simi-
lar model to the BYC. In this study, the
recidivism rate for teens who partici-
pated in the Anchorage Youth Court
was 6% versus 23% for teens who were
not part of a diversion program.
A recent systematic review of teen
courts on outcomes found that of 15