Spotlight on Hamilton County Youth Court


Investing in our community has always been a key hallmark of the CBF’s annual giving campaign.

For more than 60 years, CBF’s grantmaking has exceeded $2.8 million! Every donation, big or small, helps support local organizations and increases access to justice.

One of the programs you support is Hamilton County Youth Court, which began in 2014 when the Cincinnati Academy of Leadership for Lawyers (CALL) partnered with the Hamilton County Juvenile Court. Now, nine years since the Youth Court launched, the program continues to thrive. In 2023, the program will have helped over 500 juvenile offenders, ages 13-17, stay out of the juvenile justice system by choosing a better alternative where they agree to have their case presented to a jury of their peers (i.e., other local high school students volunteering their time) and have an opportunity to reconcile their actions through sanctions that emphasize restoration, restitution, and community service. 

"My greatest reward as a Youth Court coordinator has been to see the interaction between the respondents—the juveniles who have been charged—and the teen jurors who listen to their cases at our informal hearings. There is an obvious understanding between them that most teens have been involved in some type of situation where they  made a bad choice and later regretted it. The teen jurors are very respectful of what the respondents are facing and genuinely care about their future, as reflected in the questions they ask, the sanctions they impose, and the words of encouragement that they often give to the respondents at the end of the hearings."  — Brenda Gallagher, Youth Court Co-coordinator

At its core, the Youth Court has three primary goals: (1) Using positive direction given by other teens to reduce recidivism, (2) providing hands-on courtroom experience to high school students that allow them to see how courts work by having them serve as jurors, and (3) giving law students the chance to practice how they interview and advocate for clients in front of a mock judge. 

Last month, the CBA was invited to visit the Hamilton County Youth Center on Auburn Avenue in Clifton and watch a hearing take place. We got to see, in person, the three goals in action before our very eyes. As one respondent stated, “Thank you to all of my jurors… It felt like a real day in court and everyone understood me.”


With your continued support, Youth Court can keep providing a service that not only gives teens and law students a chance gain firsthand experience of how a courtroom operates, but also offers a healthier alternative to offenders who wish to make amends for their actions.