Legislature(1995 - 1996)

04/03/1995 01:05 PM House JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 HB 87 - AUTHORIZING YOUTH COURTS                                            
 Number 350                                                                    
 ELIZABETH ROBERTS, Legislative Aide to Representative Bettye Davis,           
 bill sponsor, introduced HB 87.  She first mentioned the Close Up             
 students who came in by the dozens to visit Representative Bettye             
 Davis and to talk about this particular bill.  The Close Up                   
 students were told to select a bill that they wanted to be passed             
 more than any other bill this session.  HB 87 was it because the              
 concept of literally being tried by their peers sounded like real             
 democracy to them.  They felt that it took the grown-ups out of the           
 judging position and put the kids where the grown-ups had been                
 MS. ROBERTS informed the committee that youth courts have been in             
 effect in Anchorage since 1989.  It is an extremely successful                
 program.  Of the youth court participants, 188 were given an award            
 by the American Bar Association and $5,000 was given to the program           
 for having the best youth court partnership system in the United              
 States.  It is an eight to ten week course in which all of the high           
 schools participate.  There are 248 students in the youth court               
 system at the moment who act as judges, jurors, prosecutors, and              
 defense attorneys.  It not only helps the defendant by allowing               
 him/her to be tried by his peers, and then not have anything on his           
 record, but it enables the students who are participating in youth            
 courts to get a real idea of what democracy in government and the             
 court system is all  about.  This legislation carries a zero fiscal           
 note.  It is ideally suited for rural Alaska, because either one              
 community or several communities can participate.  You can have as            
 many as 500 kids or as few as 30 involved.                                    
 MS. ROBERTS stated that the first youth court started in 1983 in              
 Augusta, Texas and is still running.  There are four others, but              
 Anchorage has the most sophisticated one.  It is the only one where           
 the students are the judge, the jury, and the prosecutors.  They              
 have their own constitution and bylaws, and they meet quarterly               
 with various adult judges and pro-bono attorneys to talk about                
 fiscal responsibility and to plan their caseload.  They have a                
 youth bar association that meets weekly to discuss issues.  They              
 have to pass a test to be admitted into this association.  This               
 does not cost any money, generates a great deal of community                  
 enthusiasm, has a recidivism rate of 50 percent less than kids who            
 go through the regular juvenile system, gives the defendant a                 
 second chance, and it works well.  It has been working in Anchorage           
 for six years.  Juneau is already discussing the possibility of               
 having one.  It is a nice bill which helps a lot of people and does           
 not cause any problems.                                                       
 REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY mentioned to the committee members who were             
 not on the HESS Committee, that they saw a very interesting film              
 supporting this bill.  She felt it had a lot of merit and urged               
 passage of HB 87.                                                             
 ELMER LINDSTROM, Special Assistant, Office of the Commissioner,               
 Department of Health and Social Services, stated that the                     
 department supports HB 87.  They have had success working with the            
 program in Anchorage.  The department has enjoyed success with the            
 youth model court in Anchorage as an alternative court process for            
 very young first time offenders who are arrested for less serious             
 offenses against property.  The model succeeded, for the most part,           
 as a function of the resources available in the Anchorage                     
 community.  The Department believes that the Anchorage program                
 could be replicated in other communities to the extent that there             
 is local community involvement that allows it to go forward.                  
 However, our relationship with the program is simply that of a                
 referral agency.  We do refer the juveniles to the program.                   
 Number 430                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked what the criteria for referral is in                    
 MR. LINDSTROM said he did not know in great detail, but he did know           
 it has to be a first offense and it has to be a very minor offense.           
 Usually they are offenses against property.  The DFYS would likely            
 send a letter of reprimand, sometimes far down the road in time.              
 This is an option that gets a youth's attention immediately and               
 some immediate reinforcement that what they did, they ought not to            
 have done.                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked if both the juvenile and the parents have to            
 agree to use the youth court system.                                          
 MR. LINDSTROM answered that yes, there has to be concurrence all              
 the way around to participate in the program.                                 
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE asked for examples and information on specific           
 cases that have been through the youth court.                                 
 MS. ROBERTS stated that the director of the youth court was not               
 able to release any details or any of the records of the defendants           
 who had been through youth court at this time.  They have been                
 having a small problem in Anchorage, because under the current                
 statutes, they do not have the ability to subpoena.  If someone               
 agrees to testify and then changes his mind, there is nothing a               
 youth court can do.  Under our bill, we have inserted the provision           
 for being able to subpoena a witness.                                         
 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked why this was being put into Title 18, rather            
 than Title 47.                                                                
 MS. ROBERTS said she did not know.                                            
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY noted that the bill drafter, Mr. Chenoweth,              
 had drafted it that way.                                                      
 CHAIRMAN PORTER said the bill goes to the Finance Committee next,             
 so he thought perhaps the sponsor could ask the drafter what the              
 rationale for that is.  He felt it would be more appropriate under            
 Title 47 rather than under Title 18.                                          
 REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY made a motion to move HB 87 out of committee            
 with individual recommendations and zero fiscal notes.  Hearing no            
 objection, it was so ordered.                                                 

Document Name Date/Time Subjects