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Teens Act as Judge and Jury in Queens 'Youth Court'

By Katie Honan | July 8, 2015 7:36am
 Defendants are usually accused of low-level crimes and benefit from services offered at court. 
Defendants are usually accused of low-level crimes and benefit from services offered at court. 
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FAR ROCKAWAY — Some teens accused of misdemeanor crimes will soon face a judge and jury of their peers at a new youth court.

The court, sponsored by the Queens Law Associates with support from Queens District Attorney Richard Brown and City Councilman Donovan Richards, is meant to give teens a different perspective on the legal system by letting them judge — and be judged for — actual crimes, officials said.

Defendants who would usually head to criminal court to answer for minor crimes, including petit larceny, will instead have their fate meted out by other teens enrolled in the program that trains and rotates them as judge, juror, prosecutor and defense attorney, officials said.

If found guilty, teens will be sentenced to community service or court-mandated programming at the Queens Library, which also houses the youth court, according to a Queens Library spokeswoman. 

Court will be held at the library for teens on Cornaga Avenue and Beach 20th in Far Rockaway starting in September, officials said. 

The cases selected for the youth court will be recommended to the panel by the Queens District Attorney's office.

The defendants will be able to receive resources through the Queens Law Associates that they may not have had elsewhere, an official with the DA's office said. 

"Sometimes there's a person who comes in and ... might be in need of services," said Jesse J. Sligh, Executive Assistant District Attorney in Queens. "QLA and youth court can provide access to services."

The Youth Court will open with a ceremony on July 8 at 2:30 p.m. at the Teen Library in Far Rockaway.