Youth Court


In May 2014, the Cincinnati Academy of Leadership for Lawyers (CALL) Class XVIII, in coordination with the Hamilton County Juvenile Court, implemented a Youth Court program in Cincinnati. Youth Court is an early intervention program for first-time juvenile offenders who have committed low-level misdemeanors, such as shoplifting, fighting at school, violating curfew, obstructing official business, resisting arrest, and vandalism.

Cases are referred from Juvenile Court. For a case to be heard in Youth Court, the child must accept responsibility for their actions and both the parents and the child must consent to participating in Youth Court.

The premise of Youth Court is grounded in studies showing that positive peer pressure is much more effective than a lecture from a parent or a Juvenile Court judge.

This diversion program offers these teens an opportunity to learn from their mistakes while training local teenagers to serve as jurors, addressing the real-life circumstances of their peers. Law students from the University of Cincinnati College of Law and Northern Kentucky University’s Chase College of Law serve as prosecutors, defense counsel, and bailiffs, providing these students with the opportunity to advocate for clients in a courtroom setting. Area attorneys volunteer to sit as judges.

There are now more than 1,800 similar diversion programs in the United States and five continents, successfully diverting thousands of teens from the juvenile justice system and reducing recidivism among this group.


 View Youth Court Manual

(1) Use positive peer pressure to ensure that young people who have committed minor offenses do not reoffend.  Respondents pay back the community through sanctions that emphasize restoration, encouraging them to make amends through actions such as performing community service.

(2) Expose high school students to experiential learning that is designed to complement classroom lessons about government.  Youth Court members learn first-hand how courts work, stepping into the role of jurors.  Jurors also have the opportunity to meet a diverse group of high school students from around the city and interact with practicing attorneys.

(3) Provide law students with the opportunity to interview clients and advocate on their behalf in a real courtroom setting.

Respondents are first time misdemeanor and status offenders with no official court record who have been deemed eligible for Youth Court by the Hamilton County Juvenile Court.

Youth Court takes place at:

The Youth Center
2020 Auburn Avenue
Cincinnati, Ohio 45219

High school students serve as Youth Court jurors. These students have been identified as positive role models who maintain high standards of conduct and encourage others to do the same. All volunteer jurors must either reside or attend school in Hamilton County.

To serve as a volunteer juror please contact Caitlin Burgess at hamiltoncountyyouthcourt@gmail.com.

To nominate a high school student to serve on a jury, please send nomination forms to Caitlin Burgess at hamiltoncountyyouthcourt@gmail.com.

Law students act as prosecutors, defense counsel, or bailiffs at the Youth Court hearings.

To volunteer, please contact Caitlin Burgess at hamiltoncountyyouthcourt@gmail.com.

Volunteer attorneys serve as judges for the Youth Court hearings.

To volunteer, please contact Caitlin Burgess at hamiltoncountyyouthcourt@gmail.com.