In partnership with the University of Washington Bothell (UWB), the City of Bothell will launch the Bothell Youth Court on Monday, Jan. 28, in the North Creek Events Center at UWB, 18115 Campus Way NE, Bothell.
Meeting once a month, Bothell Youth Court is presided over by a youth judge, witnessed by an all-youth jury, and cases are presented by youth attorneys.
An adult mentor is present and, at this time, only traffic infractions can appear in the court.
Defendants can only be first-time offenders, and by coming to the court they are admitting that they did commit the infraction.
However, the Bothell Youth Court provides the opportunity to explain the circumstances to a jury of peers and have the infraction dropped from their record.
Youth courts have shown to have a positive impact on recidivism in minor offenses, and they enable more direct and positive interactions between court officials and teens than a more traditional punitive model.
The structure, focused on restorative justice and peer participation, facilitates learning, accountability and community involvement among all the participants.
Youth courts also reduce the costs and administrative burdens on courts.
This was a high priority to Bothell Municipal Court Judge Michelle Gehlsen. Gehlsen was appointed to the Bothell Municipal Court in 2010 and was immediately troubled with the little time she had with youth traffic violators during heavy adult dockets.
Because traffic accidents are the number one killer of our youth, Gehlsen wanted time to discuss with them the repercussions of their dangerous behavior and ways to change it. Bothell Youth Court provides this opportunity.
After finding the solution of a youth court, Gehlsen partnered with University Washington Bothell, through the efforts of Professor Walsh and her students and Bothell High School students to create the BYC.
The court also fosters community interests in safety, efficiency and civic engagement. It is run by volunteers and is of no cost to the city, and most importantly, it will save lives by educating teens about the dangers of driving.