Twenty-Eight Students Officially Sworn in by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge

Posted by Community Relations at 9/17/2014

Twenty-eight students were officially sworn in by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Lisa Ann Vandenberg, September 5 to become Teen Court volunteers for the Court of Maricopa County.  The students are in Law Magnet teacher Andrea Sargent’s sophomore Trial Procedures class, and they have been training for their first cases, which came September 11, practicing the different roles, and writing opening and closing statements. The students take on the duty of judge, bailiff, clerk, attorneys (three defenders, three prosecutors), victim advocate and jury, trying real juvenile misdemeanors. Each month, probation officer Mike Garcia brings cases to a court of peers that determines penalties ranging from educational programs to community service and restitution. The cases involve children from ages 8-18 involved in infractions such as shoplifting, trespassing, theft or assault.   Sargent says these teen offenders come to Teen Court, instead of the courts system, and can have the misdemeanor wiped from their record.

“The recidivism is low. It is embarrassing, intimidating to be judged by your peers, and it has proven to deter these young people from another crime. It has proven to be very helpful to the juvenile justice system. 

“I have been doing this for six years, and when I first heard about it, I thought, they do what I do.  I was dumbfounded. These young people are judges, advocates, the jury.  I am so impressed with this program. It is truly unique,” Vandenberg said.

Her advice to the students:  “You are doing serious and important work.  This is a special duty, an opportunity to give sanctions to your peers.  The justice system fails when people accept what someone thinks, instead of the facts. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming. There are two sides to every story. You are the finder of facts. Be cautious, don’t rush to judgment. Justice is a slow methodical system. Give a penalty that fits the situation.”