Teens act as judge, jury and prosecutors in Seattle traffic court


Sara Jean Green
Seattle Times
March 8, 2012

Seattle Municipal Court Judge Karen Donohue knows there’s nothing scarier for parents than handing over a set of car keys to a teenage driver.

She also knows that when adults talk — be it a parent, a teacher, or even a judge — what teens tend to hear is a lot of “white noise.” And when young people make a mistake behind the wheel, it’s often their parents who end up paying tickets and dealing with increased car-insurance rates.

Changing that dynamic is behind the launch of the city’s first youth traffic court, which will begin hearing cases later this month involving Seattle drivers younger than 18. The court will be staffed by 22 Garfield High School students. The Garfield students will get community service credit and have been trained by law students from Seattle University to act as judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, bailiffs, court clerks and jurors. Garfield was chosen because of its proximity to Seattle University.

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