Peer/Youth Courts

peer youth court in session

Peer court, also known as youth or teen court, is an alternative approach to the traditional juvenile justice system. A youth charged with an offense has the opportunity to forgo the hearing and sentencing procedures of juvenile court and agrees to a sentencing forum with a jury of the youth's peers. Youth court is under the supervision of a judge, and youth defendants and volunteers play a variety of roles in the judicial process, such as district attorney or public defender. Youth courts are youth-focused and youth-driven and are designed and operated to empower youth.

Youth courts in California have been growing at a phenomenal rate over the last 15 years. In 1991, with only two youth courts in California, there are now over 70 in California and over 1,400 nationwide.
Youth Courts Fact Sheet.

Read more about youth courts, In Teen Courts, A Second Chance.

Youth Court Summit

The 2018 Youth Court Summit was held at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, CA on June 21- 23 where over 240 youth and adults attended the conference. In addition to experiencing campus life, college food, and all the amenities of a university campus, students and their adult leaders were challenged to connect with their inner and outer masks, guided on how to uncover our implicit biases, and inspired by Adam Foss, our keynote speaker, to engage directly in stopping the school-to-prison pipeline and mass incarceration. Adam is a former Assistant District Attorney in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office in Boston, MA. He is a strong advocate for criminal justice reform and understands how important the role of the prosecutor is in ending mass incarceration. Listen to Adam’s TED Talk where he discusses his vision for a better justice system.

The conference theme, Uniting Together to Lead Tomorrow, and workshop topics at this year’s summit, were developed by the California Association of Youth Courts Student Advisory Board and focused on critical youth justice issues. Attendees from youth courts throughout the state networked with one another by sharing best practices, discussing different youth court models, and gaining new perspectives and friendships.

2018 Youth Court Summit Video

Youth Court Summit Group PhotoThe Youth Court Summit is a project of the Judicial Council’s Collaborative Justice Courts Advisory Committee, and is the primary training event for youth courts across the state. Since 2006, the Youth Court Summit has been co-sponsored by the California Association of Youth Courts, Inc. (CAYC) and is open to youth statewide. The summit is held as a Southern California/Northern California alternating regional event to ensure that youth from each region have an opportunity to attend at least one event every other year.

The summit brings together youth and peer court staff, juvenile bench officers, education experts, judges, and staff of youth-focused organizations who share ideas and best practices about youth courts. Each year at the summit, youth are given the opportunity to lead their own discussions and offer ideas on how to improve youth courts.

Youth Court Regional Roundtables

CYAC Save The Date Poster imageThe California Association of Youth Courts, Inc. (CAYC) is a statewide non-profit organization that was created to facilitate the exchange of information between existing and emerging California youth courts. The CAYC in collaboration with the Judicial Council’s Center for Families, Children & the Courts offer informational roundtable events to interested local courts on developing effective and efficient youth court models in their jurisdictions. Issues of juvenile court diversion and the prevention are addressed.

Creating Alternatives in Juvenile Justice, all day roundtable trainings on creating a youth court will be held on September 12, 2018 in Sacramento, California, and on October 23, 2018 in Yreka, California.

View save the date flyer

View roundtable for Sacramento flyer

Youth Court Videos

Watch this startling video created by youth at Tamalpais High School on “The Color of Youth Court

 “Let’s Rewrite the School-to-Prison Pipeline”, presented by Debra Postil, California Association of Youth Courts

The Peer Court Experience” by the Orange County Peer Court

YMCA Marin County Youth Court Trailer, “Finding Justice


California Association of Youth Courts

National Association of Youth Courts

Youth Courts Fact Sheet

Peer Court DUI Prevention

Peer Court DUIThe Judicial Council of California partnered with the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) to develop and implement the Peer Court DUI Prevention Strategies Program. The goal of the program is to lower the number of DUI offenses in California by altering attitudes and behavior toward reckless activities through educating teens and parents on the dangers of drinking and DUI. An education curriculum specialist authored the DUI Prevention Curriculum with the input of eight mentor peer courts and the program's planning committee, which consisted of technical and educational experts in the area of teen DUI prevention.

After the curriculum was developed, ten peer courts were awarded grants to implement the program. A web designer was hired to develop some of the statewide DUI prevention curriculum components into web-based information to supplement the curriculum. The website is currently available at The program and website were both professionally evaluated using pre, post and 3-month follow up surveys.

Peer Court DUI Prevention Program Evaluation
There were encouraging results when comparing the pre-survey and post-survey groups of youth. Nearly 78% of the youth peer court participants were educated through the program which resulted in statistically significant increases in knowledge for the teens from pre to post survey. Evaluation results indicate that youth, after receiving the training, demonstrate a more serious attitude towards DUI such as they were more likely to acknowledge that riding in a car with someone under the influence was likely to result in a crash. Another positive finding included the parents influence over their teens. According to the 3-month follow up surveys, the parents talked more frequently to their teens about alcohol/drugs and parents were more aware of who their teen's friends were and where they went, after going through the curriculum.

The teens behavior change was most pronounced between the pre-survey and the 3-month follow up group. The follow-up survey reported that teens were significantly less likely to get into a vehicle with a driver under the influence.