Sixteen-year-old Lucia Rosenast didn’t know what to expect when she showed up for her first-ever hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court.

“It was a little daunting. I was kind of nervous that I was going to be put on the spot, and then I kind of was worried there would be an audience of people judging me,” she said. 

Lucia Rosenast, 16, of Seattle (left), sits next to her defensive advisor, Hermela Shiferaw, 16, of Seattle, during a traffic youth court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

With a crowd on the benches behind her, Rosenast took an oath and stated her name. But that was only the “normal" part of the next 20 minutes. 

"What’s your GPA?... Do you have any extracurricular activities?... How long have you had your license?” a panel of judges asked the Seattle Academy student. 

Rosenast was there to take responsibility for the traffic mishap that landed her a $419 ticket in January. By telling her story — that she failed to stop for a school bus when she picked up her 14-year-old sister — she stood a chance at getting her driving record wiped clean.
 
She wouldn’t have to pay the fine for that ticket. But she wouldn't leave court scot-free. Her fate depended on six jurors who’ve all been defendants in the same hot seat before.  

Jurors take notes during Lucia Rosenast's youth traffic court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

This isn’t your ordinary court hearing. It’s the Seattle Youth Traffic Court, where Garfield High School students are the judges, prosecutors, attorneys and bailiffs for two hours once a month. The defendants are 16 and 17-year-old drivers with first-time traffic violations who admit to the offenses and get a clean slate. 

The jurors are high school students who are working toward getting their own driving records cleared. They deliberate and decide on creative, unconventional sentences that both teach teen drivers a lesson and restore peace in the communities where driving mistakes caused damage.

“They can make stuff up if they want. I’ve seen (the jurors assign) meditation to somebody who was speeding because she broke up with her boyfriend,” said Jennifer Bitner, a 24-year-old Seattle University law student. 

From left to right: Student judges Dahlia Gemmer, 16, Jennet Mitikie, 16, and Corinne Davenport, 17, question a teenage defendant during a youth traffic court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

The Seattle Youth Traffic Court, which started in 2012, is one of more than 20 youth court diversion programs around Washington state, where young people are sentenced by their peers.  Youth courts have been recognized under state law since 2002, but several communities had programs before legislation. 

Seattle University law students, like Bitner, manage the Seattle Youth Traffic Court cases and offer monthly trainings for the 17 student volunteers, who are often interested in careers in the justice system.

“Traffic courts have a real impact on public safety. You can be very creative with kids really learning from their mistakes and not living with this infraction on their record, which causes insurance rates to go up,” said Margaret Fisher, who co-founded the city's youth traffic court. “I think it’s very important that kids have this intervention.” 

Seattle Youth Traffic Court hearings take place on the third floor of the Seattle Municipal Court. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

Teen Drivers Serve Unique Sentences

Every defendant is sentenced to at least one session of jury duty in a future youth traffic court hearing. The rest of the punishment depends on the facts of each case, and it’s heavily influenced by a teen driver’s demeanor.

“The defendant decides what they are going to get, as I like to see it,” said Mitke, a 16-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the head judge for Rosenast’s hearing. "It’s based on their attitude, their knowledge about what they have done and how they respond to the questions. That’s what helps the jury determine what happens.” 

Student jurors deliberate after Lucia Rosenast’s Seattle Youth Traffic Court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

They could be required to complete community service hours, write a letter of apology, write an essay, interview a police officer or fulfill another punishment set by the room full of jurors who deliberate after each defendant takes the stand.

“It’s all about getting what you’ve done and trying to acknowledge the consequences of what could have happened,” Mitkie said. 

After his April hearing, Isaiah Smith, a 17-year-old West Seattle High School student, was sentenced to serve on three youth court juries to clear up a $207 speeding ticket he got in January.

Student jurors also decided he would need to find two newspaper stories about how speeding caused a major accident and write a 150 word reflection about each story.

Isiah Smith, 17, of West Seattle stands outside of a Seattle Municipal courtroom before his youth traffic court hearing on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

“It’s not the same kind of impact they would have if all they did was pay a fine,” said Fisher, who also founded the Washington State Association of Youth Courts in 2009. 

Smith told judges he was speeding because he was running late for school on the first day of winter quarter. During deliberations in his case, jurors acknowledged the punishment the teen already had served when his parents took away his car for three months.

“I think it’s really interesting (being a juror) because you get to weigh both sides of the issue and you get to try and solve the problem,” said Alex Reynolds, a 15-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the presiding juror in Smith’s case. "You’re thinking of what would be the best disposition to give this person? What would be the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen again?" 

Student judges discuss a teen driver’s case during a youth traffic court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

High School Students Learn Justice System

Just as the 16 and 17-year-old defendants in the courtroom learn important lessons about becoming better drivers, the student volunteers are learning, too.

“It’s a benefit to the youth who are volunteering because they get a chance to be part of the legal process. They get a view of the courts and the law, and they themselves are young drivers,” said Fischer.

That’s a big deal because many of the students want to pursue careers in law.  They get community service hours for their participation and face time with with professionals like two Seattle police officers assigned to the youth court and Karen Donoue, the Seattle Municipal Court’s presiding judge.

Seattle University Law Student Jennifer Bitner helps student jurors in the deliberation room during youth traffic court at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

“We wanted the whole student (court) model because we want more youth engaged in learning about civic responsibilities,” said Donoue, who co-founded the youth court with Fisher. "It’s more fun to have the kids do it. It’s also a much more meaningful experience for kids to have kids make the rulings… and hear the evidence.”

In their monthly trainings with Seattle University law students, the Garfield High School volunteers review their upcoming cases and dissect the ones that came the month before.

Corinne Davenport is a 17-year-old aspiring lawyer who was afraid to talk in front of strangers before she joined the youth court three years ago. Now, she sits on the judge’s bench and wears a robe.  

Corinne Davenport, 17, of Seattle is one of three student judges who questioned Lucia Rosenast during her Seattle Youth Traffic Court hearing on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

“I definitely am better at being professional around people that I don’t know. I’ve learned more how to be a professional person in professional settings —  in a formal setting, like a court room. I’ve learned how to follow court decorum and also have a good time,” she said.

For Rosenast, her time as a defendant was a window into the legal process that she had never seen before.

"I kind of learned just like the formation of the court and who does what. I never really knew like the positions of the court and what their actual responsibility was. I just knew a judge was top gun and then there was the defendant,” she said.

Student judges run Lucia Rosenast’s traffic court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

'I Didn't Have Perspective On The Consequences' 

Rosenast described the mood in the courtroom as “tense” while she waited for jurors to return with her fate.

“Everyone was very silent,” Rosenast said. “Everyone was apprehensive.”

Lucia Rosenast waits for jurors to return from the deliberation room during her Seattle Youth Traffic Court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

About 10 minutes later, the jurors returned and read her sentence aloud.

They decided Rosenast should interview a school bus driver about the safety of driving in school zones and write a two page, single-spaced paper about what she learned. She must also serve on four youth court juries in order to clear her record.

“(Before this experience,) I didn’t have perspective on the consequences of getting a ticket and what goes into getting that off your record,” Lucia said. “Now I know how much it takes going to all these court cases and putting in all this time. It gives me more perspective.”  

Her father, who watched the hearing from the audience, said he’s hopeful the sentence will teach his daughter something new that paying a fine wouldn’t accomplish.

"I think any bus driver has some really good stories of people that ignore that stop sign and close calls or maybe even kids getting hit,” Alex Rosenast said.  "We’ve all seen that happen where people don’t see the bus, so maybe she’ll get a real eye-opening discussion about how intense that is for the bus driver.”

Sixteen-year-old Lucia Rosenast didn’t know what to expect when she showed up for her first-ever hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court.

“It was a little daunting. I kind of nervous that I was going to be put on the spot, and then I kind of was worried there would be an audience of people judging me,” she said. 

Lucia Rosenhart, 16, of Seattle (left), sits next to her defensive advisor, Hermela Shiferaw, 16, of Seattle, during a traffic youth court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

With a crowd on the benches behind her, Rosenast took an oath and stated her name. But that was only the “normal" part of the next 20 minutes. 

"What’s your GPA?... Do you have any extra curricular activities?... How long have you had your license?” a panel of judges asked the Seattle Academy student. 

Rosenast was there to take responsibility for the traffic mishap that landed her a $419 ticket in January. By telling her story — that she failed to stop for a school bus when she picked up her 14-year-old sister,  she stood a chance at getting her driving record wiped clean.
 
She’d pay a price for the hefty ticket. But she wouldn’t have to pay the fine.  Her fate depended on other teen drivers — the six jurors — who’ve all been defendants in the same hot seat before. 

RRRRRRR

This isn’t your ordinary court hearing. It’s the Seattle Youth Traffic Court, where Garfield High School students are the judges, prosecutors, attorneys and bailiffs once a month. The defendants are 16 and 17-year-old drivers with first-time traffic violations who admit to the offenses and get a clean slate. 

The jurors, also high school students, deliberate and decide on creative, unconventional sentences that teach teen drivers a lesson and restore peace in the communities where driving mistakes caused damage.

“It’s all about getting what you’ve done and trying to acknowledge the consequences of what could have happened,” said Jennet Mitkie, a 16-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the head judge for Rosenast’s hearing. 

From left to right: Student judges Dahlia Gemmer, 16, Jennet Mitikie, 16, and Corinne Davenport, 17, question a teenage defendant during a youth traffic court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

The Seattle diversion program, which operates under Washington law, started in 2012. It’s one of about 1,400 youth courts around the country where young people are sentenced by their peers.  Seattle University law students manage the cases and offer monthly trainings for the 17 student volunteers, who are often interested in careers in the justice system.

“Traffic courts have a real impact on public safety. You can be very creative with kids really learning from their mistakes and not living with this infraction on their record, which causes insurance rates to go up,” said Margaret Fisher, who co-founded the city's youth traffic court in 2012. “I think it’s very important that kids have this intervention.” 

RRRRR

Teen Drivers Serve Unique Sentences

Every defendant is sentenced to at least one jury duty in a future youth traffic court hearing. The rest of the punishment depends on the facts of each case, and it’s heavily influenced by a teen driver’s demeanor.

“The defendant decides what they are going to get,  as I like to see it,” said Mitke, the 16-year-old student judge. "It’s based on their attitude, their knowledge about what they have done and how they respond to the questions. That’s what helps the jury determine what happens.” 

RRRRRRR

They could be required to complete community service hours, write a letter of apology, write an essay, interview a police officer or fulfill another punishment set by the room full of jurors who deliberate after each defendant takes the stand.

“They can make stuff up if they want. I’ve seen them give meditation to somebody who was speeding because she broke up with her boyfriend,” said Jennifer Bitner, a 24 year-old Seattle University law student who has helped manage the youth court for three years.

After his April hearing, Isaiah Smith, a 17-year-old West Seattle High School student, was sentenced to serve on three youth court juries to clear up a $207 speeding ticket he got in January.

Student jurors also decided he would need to find two newspaper stories about how speeding caused a major accident and write a 150 word reflection about each story.

RRRRRR

“It’s not the same kind of impact they would have if all they did was pay a fine,” said Margaret Fisher, co-founder of the program.

Smith told judges he was speeding because he was running late for school on the first day of winter quarter. During deliberations in his case, jurors acknowledged the punishment the teen already had served when his parents took away his car for three months.

“I think it’s really interesting (being a juror) because you get to weigh both sides of the issue and you get to try and solve the problem,” said Alex Reynolds, a 15-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the presiding juror in Smith’s case. "You’re thinking of what would be the best disposition to give this person? What would be the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen again?" 

RRRRRRRRR

High School Students Learn Justice System

Just as the 16 and 17-year-old defendants in the courtroom learn important lessons about becoming better drivers, the student volunteers are learning, too.

“It’s a benefit to the youth who are volunteering because they get a chance to be part of the legal process. They get a view of the courts and the law, and they themselves are young drivers,” said Fischer.

That’s a big deal because many of the students want to pursue careers in law.  They get community service hours for their participation and face time with with professionals, like two Seattle police officers assigned to the youth court and Karen Donoue, the Seattle Municipal Court’s presiding judge.
 

RRRRRR

“We wanted the whole student (court) model because we want more youth engaged in learning about civic responsibilities,” said Donoue, who co-founded the youth court with Fisher. "It’s more fun to have the kids do it. It’s also a much more meaningful experience for kids to have kids make the rulings… and hear the evidence.”

In their monthly trainings with Seattle University law students, the Garfield High School volunteers review their upcoming cases and dissect the ones that came the month before.

Corinne Davenport is a 17-year-old aspiring lawyer who was afraid to talk in front of strangers before she joined the youth court three years ago. Now, she sits on the judge’s bench and wears a robe.  

RRRRRRRR

“I definitely am better at being professional around people that I don’t know. I’ve learned more how to be a professional person in professional settings —  in a formal setting, like a court room. I’ve learned how to follow court decorum and also have a good time,” she said.

For Rosenast, her time as a defendant was a window into the legal process that she had never seen before.

"I kind of learned just like the formation of the court and who does what. I never really knew like the positions of the court and what their actual responsibility was. I just knew a judge was top gun and then there was the defendant,” she said.

'I Didn't Have Perspective On The Consequences' 

Rosenast described the mood in the courtroom as “tense” while she waited for jurors to return with her fate.

“Everyone was very silent,” Rosenast said. “Everyone was apprehensive.”

RRRRRR

About ten minutes later, the jurors returned and read her sentence aloud.

They  decided Rosenast should interview a school bus driver about the safety of driving in school zones and write a two page, single-spaced paper about what she learned. She must also serve on four youth court juries in order to clear her record.

“(Before this experience,) I didn’t have perspective on the consequences of getting a ticket and what goes into getting that off your record,” Lucia said. “Now I know how much it takes going to all these court cases and putting in all this time. It gives me more perspective,” she said. 

Her father, who watched the hearing from the audience, said he’s hopeful the sentence will teach his daughter something new that paying a fine wouldn’t accomplish.

"I think any bus driver has some really good stories of people that ignore that stop sign and close calls or maybe even kids getting hit,” Alex Rosenast said.  "We’ve all seen that happen where people don’t see the bus, so maybe she’ll get a real eye-opening discussion about how intense that is for the bus driver.”

Sixteen-year-old Lucia Rosenast didn’t know what to expect when she showed up for her first-ever hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court.

“It was a little daunting. I kind of nervous that I was going to be put on the spot, and then I kind of was worried there would be an audience of people judging me,” she said. 

Lucia Rosenhart, 16, of Seattle (left), sits next to her defensive advisor, Hermela Shiferaw, 16, of Seattle, during a traffic youth court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

With a crowd on the benches behind her, Rosenast took an oath and stated her name. But that was only the “normal" part of the next 20 minutes. 

"What’s your GPA?... Do you have any extra curricular activities?... How long have you had your license?” a panel of judges asked the Seattle Academy student. 

Rosenast was there to take responsibility for the traffic mishap that landed her a $419 ticket in January. By telling her story — that she failed to stop for a school bus when she picked up her 14-year-old sister,  she stood a chance at getting her driving record wiped clean.
 
She’d pay a price for the hefty ticket. But she wouldn’t have to pay the fine.  Her fate depended on other teen drivers — the six jurors — who’ve all been defendants in the same hot seat before. 

RRRRRRR

This isn’t your ordinary court hearing. It’s the Seattle Youth Traffic Court, where Garfield High School students are the judges, prosecutors, attorneys and bailiffs once a month. The defendants are 16 and 17-year-old drivers with first-time traffic violations who admit to the offenses and get a clean slate. 

The jurors, also high school students, deliberate and decide on creative, unconventional sentences that teach teen drivers a lesson and restore peace in the communities where driving mistakes caused damage.

“It’s all about getting what you’ve done and trying to acknowledge the consequences of what could have happened,” said Jennet Mitkie, a 16-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the head judge for Rosenast’s hearing. 

From left to right: Student judges Dahlia Gemmer, 16, Jennet Mitikie, 16, and Corinne Davenport, 17, question a teenage defendant during a youth traffic court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

The Seattle diversion program, which operates under Washington law, started in 2012. It’s one of about 1,400 youth courts around the country where young people are sentenced by their peers.  Seattle University law students manage the cases and offer monthly trainings for the 17 student volunteers, who are often interested in careers in the justice system.

“Traffic courts have a real impact on public safety. You can be very creative with kids really learning from their mistakes and not living with this infraction on their record, which causes insurance rates to go up,” said Margaret Fisher, who co-founded the city's youth traffic court in 2012. “I think it’s very important that kids have this intervention.” 

RRRRR

Teen Drivers Serve Unique Sentences

Every defendant is sentenced to at least one jury duty in a future youth traffic court hearing. The rest of the punishment depends on the facts of each case, and it’s heavily influenced by a teen driver’s demeanor.

“The defendant decides what they are going to get,  as I like to see it,” said Mitke, the 16-year-old student judge. "It’s based on their attitude, their knowledge about what they have done and how they respond to the questions. That’s what helps the jury determine what happens.” 

RRRRRRR

They could be required to complete community service hours, write a letter of apology, write an essay, interview a police officer or fulfill another punishment set by the room full of jurors who deliberate after each defendant takes the stand.

“They can make stuff up if they want. I’ve seen them give meditation to somebody who was speeding because she broke up with her boyfriend,” said Jennifer Bitner, a 24 year-old Seattle University law student who has helped manage the youth court for three years.

After his April hearing, Isaiah Smith, a 17-year-old West Seattle High School student, was sentenced to serve on three youth court juries to clear up a $207 speeding ticket he got in January.

Student jurors also decided he would need to find two newspaper stories about how speeding caused a major accident and write a 150 word reflection about each story.

RRRRRR

“It’s not the same kind of impact they would have if all they did was pay a fine,” said Margaret Fisher, co-founder of the program.

Smith told judges he was speeding because he was running late for school on the first day of winter quarter. During deliberations in his case, jurors acknowledged the punishment the teen already had served when his parents took away his car for three months.

“I think it’s really interesting (being a juror) because you get to weigh both sides of the issue and you get to try and solve the problem,” said Alex Reynolds, a 15-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the presiding juror in Smith’s case. "You’re thinking of what would be the best disposition to give this person? What would be the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen again?" 

RRRRRRRRR

High School Students Learn Justice System

Just as the 16 and 17-year-old defendants in the courtroom learn important lessons about becoming better drivers, the student volunteers are learning, too.

“It’s a benefit to the youth who are volunteering because they get a chance to be part of the legal process. They get a view of the courts and the law, and they themselves are young drivers,” said Fischer.

That’s a big deal because many of the students want to pursue careers in law.  They get community service hours for their participation and face time with with professionals, like two Seattle police officers assigned to the youth court and Karen Donoue, the Seattle Municipal Court’s presiding judge.
 

RRRRRR

“We wanted the whole student (court) model because we want more youth engaged in learning about civic responsibilities,” said Donoue, who co-founded the youth court with Fisher. "It’s more fun to have the kids do it. It’s also a much more meaningful experience for kids to have kids make the rulings… and hear the evidence.”

In their monthly trainings with Seattle University law students, the Garfield High School volunteers review their upcoming cases and dissect the ones that came the month before.

Corinne Davenport is a 17-year-old aspiring lawyer who was afraid to talk in front of strangers before she joined the youth court three years ago. Now, she sits on the judge’s bench and wears a robe.  

RRRRRRRR

“I definitely am better at being professional around people that I don’t know. I’ve learned more how to be a professional person in professional settings —  in a formal setting, like a court room. I’ve learned how to follow court decorum and also have a good time,” she said.

For Rosenast, her time as a defendant was a window into the legal process that she had never seen before.

"I kind of learned just like the formation of the court and who does what. I never really knew like the positions of the court and what their actual responsibility was. I just knew a judge was top gun and then there was the defendant,” she said.

'I Didn't Have Perspective On The Consequences' 

Rosenast described the mood in the courtroom as “tense” while she waited for jurors to return with her fate.

“Everyone was very silent,” Rosenast said. “Everyone was apprehensive.”

RRRRRR

About ten minutes later, the jurors returned and read her sentence aloud.

They  decided Rosenast should interview a school bus driver about the safety of driving in school zones and write a two page, single-spaced paper about what she learned. She must also serve on four youth court juries in order to clear her record.

“(Before this experience,) I didn’t have perspective on the consequences of getting a ticket and what goes into getting that off your record,” Lucia said. “Now I know how much it takes going to all these court cases and putting in all this time. It gives me more perspective,” she said. 

Her father, who watched the hearing from the audience, said he’s hopeful the sentence will teach his daughter something new that paying a fine wouldn’t accomplish.

"I think any bus driver has some really good stories of people that ignore that stop sign and close calls or maybe even kids getting hit,” Alex Rosenast said.  "We’ve all seen that happen where people don’t see the bus, so maybe she’ll get a real eye-opening discussion about how intense that is for the bus driver.”

Sixteen-year-old Lucia Rosenast didn’t know what to expect when she showed up for her first-ever hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court.

“It was a little daunting. I kind of nervous that I was going to be put on the spot, and then I kind of was worried there would be an audience of people judging me,” she said. 

Lucia Rosenhart, 16, of Seattle (left), sits next to her defensive advisor, Hermela Shiferaw, 16, of Seattle, during a traffic youth court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

With a crowd on the benches behind her, Rosenast took an oath and stated her name. But that was only the “normal" part of the next 20 minutes. 

"What’s your GPA?... Do you have any extra curricular activities?... How long have you had your license?” a panel of judges asked the Seattle Academy student. 

Rosenast was there to take responsibility for the traffic mishap that landed her a $419 ticket in January. By telling her story — that she failed to stop for a school bus when she picked up her 14-year-old sister,  she stood a chance at getting her driving record wiped clean.
 
She’d pay a price for the hefty ticket. But she wouldn’t have to pay the fine.  Her fate depended on other teen drivers — the six jurors — who’ve all been defendants in the same hot seat before. 

RRRRRRR

This isn’t your ordinary court hearing. It’s the Seattle Youth Traffic Court, where Garfield High School students are the judges, prosecutors, attorneys and bailiffs once a month. The defendants are 16 and 17-year-old drivers with first-time traffic violations who admit to the offenses and get a clean slate. 

The jurors, also high school students, deliberate and decide on creative, unconventional sentences that teach teen drivers a lesson and restore peace in the communities where driving mistakes caused damage.

“It’s all about getting what you’ve done and trying to acknowledge the consequences of what could have happened,” said Jennet Mitkie, a 16-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the head judge for Rosenast’s hearing. 

From left to right: Student judges Dahlia Gemmer, 16, Jennet Mitikie, 16, and Corinne Davenport, 17, question a teenage defendant during a youth traffic court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

The Seattle diversion program, which operates under Washington law, started in 2012. It’s one of about 1,400 youth courts around the country where young people are sentenced by their peers.  Seattle University law students manage the cases and offer monthly trainings for the 17 student volunteers, who are often interested in careers in the justice system.

“Traffic courts have a real impact on public safety. You can be very creative with kids really learning from their mistakes and not living with this infraction on their record, which causes insurance rates to go up,” said Margaret Fisher, who co-founded the city's youth traffic court in 2012. “I think it’s very important that kids have this intervention.” 

RRRRR

Teen Drivers Serve Unique Sentences

Every defendant is sentenced to at least one jury duty in a future youth traffic court hearing. The rest of the punishment depends on the facts of each case, and it’s heavily influenced by a teen driver’s demeanor.

“The defendant decides what they are going to get,  as I like to see it,” said Mitke, the 16-year-old student judge. "It’s based on their attitude, their knowledge about what they have done and how they respond to the questions. That’s what helps the jury determine what happens.” 

RRRRRRR

They could be required to complete community service hours, write a letter of apology, write an essay, interview a police officer or fulfill another punishment set by the room full of jurors who deliberate after each defendant takes the stand.

“They can make stuff up if they want. I’ve seen them give meditation to somebody who was speeding because she broke up with her boyfriend,” said Jennifer Bitner, a 24 year-old Seattle University law student who has helped manage the youth court for three years.

After his April hearing, Isaiah Smith, a 17-year-old West Seattle High School student, was sentenced to serve on three youth court juries to clear up a $207 speeding ticket he got in January.

Student jurors also decided he would need to find two newspaper stories about how speeding caused a major accident and write a 150 word reflection about each story.

RRRRRR

“It’s not the same kind of impact they would have if all they did was pay a fine,” said Margaret Fisher, co-founder of the program.

Smith told judges he was speeding because he was running late for school on the first day of winter quarter. During deliberations in his case, jurors acknowledged the punishment the teen already had served when his parents took away his car for three months.

“I think it’s really interesting (being a juror) because you get to weigh both sides of the issue and you get to try and solve the problem,” said Alex Reynolds, a 15-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the presiding juror in Smith’s case. "You’re thinking of what would be the best disposition to give this person? What would be the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen again?" 

RRRRRRRRR

High School Students Learn Justice System

Just as the 16 and 17-year-old defendants in the courtroom learn important lessons about becoming better drivers, the student volunteers are learning, too.

“It’s a benefit to the youth who are volunteering because they get a chance to be part of the legal process. They get a view of the courts and the law, and they themselves are young drivers,” said Fischer.

That’s a big deal because many of the students want to pursue careers in law.  They get community service hours for their participation and face time with with professionals, like two Seattle police officers assigned to the youth court and Karen Donoue, the Seattle Municipal Court’s presiding judge.
 

RRRRRR

“We wanted the whole student (court) model because we want more youth engaged in learning about civic responsibilities,” said Donoue, who co-founded the youth court with Fisher. "It’s more fun to have the kids do it. It’s also a much more meaningful experience for kids to have kids make the rulings… and hear the evidence.”

In their monthly trainings with Seattle University law students, the Garfield High School volunteers review their upcoming cases and dissect the ones that came the month before.

Corinne Davenport is a 17-year-old aspiring lawyer who was afraid to talk in front of strangers before she joined the youth court three years ago. Now, she sits on the judge’s bench and wears a robe.  

RRRRRRRR

“I definitely am better at being professional around people that I don’t know. I’ve learned more how to be a professional person in professional settings —  in a formal setting, like a court room. I’ve learned how to follow court decorum and also have a good time,” she said.

For Rosenast, her time as a defendant was a window into the legal process that she had never seen before.

"I kind of learned just like the formation of the court and who does what. I never really knew like the positions of the court and what their actual responsibility was. I just knew a judge was top gun and then there was the defendant,” she said.

'I Didn't Have Perspective On The Consequences' 

Rosenast described the mood in the courtroom as “tense” while she waited for jurors to return with her fate.

“Everyone was very silent,” Rosenast said. “Everyone was apprehensive.”

RRRRRR

About ten minutes later, the jurors returned and read her sentence aloud.

They  decided Rosenast should interview a school bus driver about the safety of driving in school zones and write a two page, single-spaced paper about what she learned. She must also serve on four youth court juries in order to clear her record.

“(Before this experience,) I didn’t have perspective on the consequences of getting a ticket and what goes into getting that off your record,” Lucia said. “Now I know how much it takes going to all these court cases and putting in all this time. It gives me more perspective,” she said. 

Her father, who watched the hearing from the audience, said he’s hopeful the sentence will teach his daughter something new that paying a fine wouldn’t accomplish.

"I think any bus driver has some really good stories of people that ignore that stop sign and close calls or maybe even kids getting hit,” Alex Rosenast said.  "We’ve all seen that happen where people don’t see the bus, so maybe she’ll get a real eye-opening discussion about how intense that is for the bus driver.”

Sixteen-year-old Lucia Rosenast didn’t know what to expect when she showed up for her first-ever hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court.

“It was a little daunting. I kind of nervous that I was going to be put on the spot, and then I kind of was worried there would be an audience of people judging me,” she said. 

Lucia Rosenhart, 16, of Seattle (left), sits next to her defensive advisor, Hermela Shiferaw, 16, of Seattle, during a traffic youth court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

With a crowd on the benches behind her, Rosenast took an oath and stated her name. But that was only the “normal" part of the next 20 minutes. 

"What’s your GPA?... Do you have any extra curricular activities?... How long have you had your license?” a panel of judges asked the Seattle Academy student. 

Rosenast was there to take responsibility for the traffic mishap that landed her a $419 ticket in January. By telling her story — that she failed to stop for a school bus when she picked up her 14-year-old sister,  she stood a chance at getting her driving record wiped clean.
 
She’d pay a price for the hefty ticket. But she wouldn’t have to pay the fine.  Her fate depended on other teen drivers — the six jurors — who’ve all been defendants in the same hot seat before. 

RRRRRRR

This isn’t your ordinary court hearing. It’s the Seattle Youth Traffic Court, where Garfield High School students are the judges, prosecutors, attorneys and bailiffs once a month. The defendants are 16 and 17-year-old drivers with first-time traffic violations who admit to the offenses and get a clean slate. 

The jurors, also high school students, deliberate and decide on creative, unconventional sentences that teach teen drivers a lesson and restore peace in the communities where driving mistakes caused damage.

“It’s all about getting what you’ve done and trying to acknowledge the consequences of what could have happened,” said Jennet Mitkie, a 16-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the head judge for Rosenast’s hearing. 

From left to right: Student judges Dahlia Gemmer, 16, Jennet Mitikie, 16, and Corinne Davenport, 17, question a teenage defendant during a youth traffic court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

The Seattle diversion program, which operates under Washington law, started in 2012. It’s one of about 1,400 youth courts around the country where young people are sentenced by their peers.  Seattle University law students manage the cases and offer monthly trainings for the 17 student volunteers, who are often interested in careers in the justice system.

“Traffic courts have a real impact on public safety. You can be very creative with kids really learning from their mistakes and not living with this infraction on their record, which causes insurance rates to go up,” said Margaret Fisher, who co-founded the city's youth traffic court in 2012. “I think it’s very important that kids have this intervention.” 

RRRRR

Teen Drivers Serve Unique Sentences

Every defendant is sentenced to at least one jury duty in a future youth traffic court hearing. The rest of the punishment depends on the facts of each case, and it’s heavily influenced by a teen driver’s demeanor.

“The defendant decides what they are going to get,  as I like to see it,” said Mitke, the 16-year-old student judge. "It’s based on their attitude, their knowledge about what they have done and how they respond to the questions. That’s what helps the jury determine what happens.” 

RRRRRRR

They could be required to complete community service hours, write a letter of apology, write an essay, interview a police officer or fulfill another punishment set by the room full of jurors who deliberate after each defendant takes the stand.

“They can make stuff up if they want. I’ve seen them give meditation to somebody who was speeding because she broke up with her boyfriend,” said Jennifer Bitner, a 24 year-old Seattle University law student who has helped manage the youth court for three years.

After his April hearing, Isaiah Smith, a 17-year-old West Seattle High School student, was sentenced to serve on three youth court juries to clear up a $207 speeding ticket he got in January.

Student jurors also decided he would need to find two newspaper stories about how speeding caused a major accident and write a 150 word reflection about each story.

RRRRRR

“It’s not the same kind of impact they would have if all they did was pay a fine,” said Margaret Fisher, co-founder of the program.

Smith told judges he was speeding because he was running late for school on the first day of winter quarter. During deliberations in his case, jurors acknowledged the punishment the teen already had served when his parents took away his car for three months.

“I think it’s really interesting (being a juror) because you get to weigh both sides of the issue and you get to try and solve the problem,” said Alex Reynolds, a 15-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the presiding juror in Smith’s case. "You’re thinking of what would be the best disposition to give this person? What would be the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen again?" 

RRRRRRRRR

High School Students Learn Justice System

Just as the 16 and 17-year-old defendants in the courtroom learn important lessons about becoming better drivers, the student volunteers are learning, too.

“It’s a benefit to the youth who are volunteering because they get a chance to be part of the legal process. They get a view of the courts and the law, and they themselves are young drivers,” said Fischer.

That’s a big deal because many of the students want to pursue careers in law.  They get community service hours for their participation and face time with with professionals, like two Seattle police officers assigned to the youth court and Karen Donoue, the Seattle Municipal Court’s presiding judge.
 

RRRRRR

“We wanted the whole student (court) model because we want more youth engaged in learning about civic responsibilities,” said Donoue, who co-founded the youth court with Fisher. "It’s more fun to have the kids do it. It’s also a much more meaningful experience for kids to have kids make the rulings… and hear the evidence.”

In their monthly trainings with Seattle University law students, the Garfield High School volunteers review their upcoming cases and dissect the ones that came the month before.

Corinne Davenport is a 17-year-old aspiring lawyer who was afraid to talk in front of strangers before she joined the youth court three years ago. Now, she sits on the judge’s bench and wears a robe.  

RRRRRRRR

“I definitely am better at being professional around people that I don’t know. I’ve learned more how to be a professional person in professional settings —  in a formal setting, like a court room. I’ve learned how to follow court decorum and also have a good time,” she said.

For Rosenast, her time as a defendant was a window into the legal process that she had never seen before.

"I kind of learned just like the formation of the court and who does what. I never really knew like the positions of the court and what their actual responsibility was. I just knew a judge was top gun and then there was the defendant,” she said.

'I Didn't Have Perspective On The Consequences' 

Rosenast described the mood in the courtroom as “tense” while she waited for jurors to return with her fate.

“Everyone was very silent,” Rosenast said. “Everyone was apprehensive.”

RRRRRR

About ten minutes later, the jurors returned and read her sentence aloud.

They  decided Rosenast should interview a school bus driver about the safety of driving in school zones and write a two page, single-spaced paper about what she learned. She must also serve on four youth court juries in order to clear her record.

“(Before this experience,) I didn’t have perspective on the consequences of getting a ticket and what goes into getting that off your record,” Lucia said. “Now I know how much it takes going to all these court cases and putting in all this time. It gives me more perspective,” she said. 

Her father, who watched the hearing from the audience, said he’s hopeful the sentence will teach his daughter something new that paying a fine wouldn’t accomplish.

"I think any bus driver has some really good stories of people that ignore that stop sign and close calls or maybe even kids getting hit,” Alex Rosenast said.  "We’ve all seen that happen where people don’t see the bus, so maybe she’ll get a real eye-opening discussion about how intense that is for the bus driver.”

Sixteen-year-old Lucia Rosenast didn’t know what to expect when she showed up for her first-ever hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court.

“It was a little daunting. I kind of nervous that I was going to be put on the spot, and then I kind of was worried there would be an audience of people judging me,” she said. 

Lucia Rosenhart, 16, of Seattle (left), sits next to her defensive advisor, Hermela Shiferaw, 16, of Seattle, during a traffic youth court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

With a crowd on the benches behind her, Rosenast took an oath and stated her name. But that was only the “normal" part of the next 20 minutes. 

"What’s your GPA?... Do you have any extra curricular activities?... How long have you had your license?” a panel of judges asked the Seattle Academy student. 

Rosenast was there to take responsibility for the traffic mishap that landed her a $419 ticket in January. By telling her story — that she failed to stop for a school bus when she picked up her 14-year-old sister,  she stood a chance at getting her driving record wiped clean.
 
She’d pay a price for the hefty ticket. But she wouldn’t have to pay the fine.  Her fate depended on other teen drivers — the six jurors — who’ve all been defendants in the same hot seat before. 

RRRRRRR

This isn’t your ordinary court hearing. It’s the Seattle Youth Traffic Court, where Garfield High School students are the judges, prosecutors, attorneys and bailiffs once a month. The defendants are 16 and 17-year-old drivers with first-time traffic violations who admit to the offenses and get a clean slate. 

The jurors, also high school students, deliberate and decide on creative, unconventional sentences that teach teen drivers a lesson and restore peace in the communities where driving mistakes caused damage.

“It’s all about getting what you’ve done and trying to acknowledge the consequences of what could have happened,” said Jennet Mitkie, a 16-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the head judge for Rosenast’s hearing. 

From left to right: Student judges Dahlia Gemmer, 16, Jennet Mitikie, 16, and Corinne Davenport, 17, question a teenage defendant during a youth traffic court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

The Seattle diversion program, which operates under Washington law, started in 2012. It’s one of about 1,400 youth courts around the country where young people are sentenced by their peers.  Seattle University law students manage the cases and offer monthly trainings for the 17 student volunteers, who are often interested in careers in the justice system.

“Traffic courts have a real impact on public safety. You can be very creative with kids really learning from their mistakes and not living with this infraction on their record, which causes insurance rates to go up,” said Margaret Fisher, who co-founded the city's youth traffic court in 2012. “I think it’s very important that kids have this intervention.” 

RRRRR

Teen Drivers Serve Unique Sentences

Every defendant is sentenced to at least one jury duty in a future youth traffic court hearing. The rest of the punishment depends on the facts of each case, and it’s heavily influenced by a teen driver’s demeanor.

“The defendant decides what they are going to get,  as I like to see it,” said Mitke, the 16-year-old student judge. "It’s based on their attitude, their knowledge about what they have done and how they respond to the questions. That’s what helps the jury determine what happens.” 

RRRRRRR

They could be required to complete community service hours, write a letter of apology, write an essay, interview a police officer or fulfill another punishment set by the room full of jurors who deliberate after each defendant takes the stand.

“They can make stuff up if they want. I’ve seen them give meditation to somebody who was speeding because she broke up with her boyfriend,” said Jennifer Bitner, a 24 year-old Seattle University law student who has helped manage the youth court for three years.

After his April hearing, Isaiah Smith, a 17-year-old West Seattle High School student, was sentenced to serve on three youth court juries to clear up a $207 speeding ticket he got in January.

Student jurors also decided he would need to find two newspaper stories about how speeding caused a major accident and write a 150 word reflection about each story.

RRRRRR

“It’s not the same kind of impact they would have if all they did was pay a fine,” said Margaret Fisher, co-founder of the program.

Smith told judges he was speeding because he was running late for school on the first day of winter quarter. During deliberations in his case, jurors acknowledged the punishment the teen already had served when his parents took away his car for three months.

“I think it’s really interesting (being a juror) because you get to weigh both sides of the issue and you get to try and solve the problem,” said Alex Reynolds, a 15-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the presiding juror in Smith’s case. "You’re thinking of what would be the best disposition to give this person? What would be the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen again?" 

RRRRRRRRR

High School Students Learn Justice System

Just as the 16 and 17-year-old defendants in the courtroom learn important lessons about becoming better drivers, the student volunteers are learning, too.

“It’s a benefit to the youth who are volunteering because they get a chance to be part of the legal process. They get a view of the courts and the law, and they themselves are young drivers,” said Fischer.

That’s a big deal because many of the students want to pursue careers in law.  They get community service hours for their participation and face time with with professionals, like two Seattle police officers assigned to the youth court and Karen Donoue, the Seattle Municipal Court’s presiding judge.
 

RRRRRR

“We wanted the whole student (court) model because we want more youth engaged in learning about civic responsibilities,” said Donoue, who co-founded the youth court with Fisher. "It’s more fun to have the kids do it. It’s also a much more meaningful experience for kids to have kids make the rulings… and hear the evidence.”

In their monthly trainings with Seattle University law students, the Garfield High School volunteers review their upcoming cases and dissect the ones that came the month before.

Corinne Davenport is a 17-year-old aspiring lawyer who was afraid to talk in front of strangers before she joined the youth court three years ago. Now, she sits on the judge’s bench and wears a robe.  

RRRRRRRR

“I definitely am better at being professional around people that I don’t know. I’ve learned more how to be a professional person in professional settings —  in a formal setting, like a court room. I’ve learned how to follow court decorum and also have a good time,” she said.

For Rosenast, her time as a defendant was a window into the legal process that she had never seen before.

"I kind of learned just like the formation of the court and who does what. I never really knew like the positions of the court and what their actual responsibility was. I just knew a judge was top gun and then there was the defendant,” she said.

'I Didn't Have Perspective On The Consequences' 

Rosenast described the mood in the courtroom as “tense” while she waited for jurors to return with her fate.

“Everyone was very silent,” Rosenast said. “Everyone was apprehensive.”

RRRRRR

About ten minutes later, the jurors returned and read her sentence aloud.

They  decided Rosenast should interview a school bus driver about the safety of driving in school zones and write a two page, single-spaced paper about what she learned. She must also serve on four youth court juries in order to clear her record.

“(Before this experience,) I didn’t have perspective on the consequences of getting a ticket and what goes into getting that off your record,” Lucia said. “Now I know how much it takes going to all these court cases and putting in all this time. It gives me more perspective,” she said. 

Her father, who watched the hearing from the audience, said he’s hopeful the sentence will teach his daughter something new that paying a fine wouldn’t accomplish.

"I think any bus driver has some really good stories of people that ignore that stop sign and close calls or maybe even kids getting hit,” Alex Rosenast said.  "We’ve all seen that happen where people don’t see the bus, so maybe she’ll get a real eye-opening discussion about how intense that is for the bus driver.”

Sixteen-year-old Lucia Rosenast didn’t know what to expect when she showed up for her first-ever hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court.

“It was a little daunting. I kind of nervous that I was going to be put on the spot, and then I kind of was worried there would be an audience of people judging me,” she said. 

Lucia Rosenhart, 16, of Seattle (left), sits next to her defensive advisor, Hermela Shiferaw, 16, of Seattle, during a traffic youth court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

With a crowd on the benches behind her, Rosenast took an oath and stated her name. But that was only the “normal" part of the next 20 minutes. 

"What’s your GPA?... Do you have any extra curricular activities?... How long have you had your license?” a panel of judges asked the Seattle Academy student. 

Rosenast was there to take responsibility for the traffic mishap that landed her a $419 ticket in January. By telling her story — that she failed to stop for a school bus when she picked up her 14-year-old sister,  she stood a chance at getting her driving record wiped clean.
 
She’d pay a price for the hefty ticket. But she wouldn’t have to pay the fine.  Her fate depended on other teen drivers — the six jurors — who’ve all been defendants in the same hot seat before. 

RRRRRRR

This isn’t your ordinary court hearing. It’s the Seattle Youth Traffic Court, where Garfield High School students are the judges, prosecutors, attorneys and bailiffs once a month. The defendants are 16 and 17-year-old drivers with first-time traffic violations who admit to the offenses and get a clean slate. 

The jurors, also high school students, deliberate and decide on creative, unconventional sentences that teach teen drivers a lesson and restore peace in the communities where driving mistakes caused damage.

“It’s all about getting what you’ve done and trying to acknowledge the consequences of what could have happened,” said Jennet Mitkie, a 16-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the head judge for Rosenast’s hearing. 

From left to right: Student judges Dahlia Gemmer, 16, Jennet Mitikie, 16, and Corinne Davenport, 17, question a teenage defendant during a youth traffic court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

The Seattle diversion program, which operates under Washington law, started in 2012. It’s one of about 1,400 youth courts around the country where young people are sentenced by their peers.  Seattle University law students manage the cases and offer monthly trainings for the 17 student volunteers, who are often interested in careers in the justice system.

“Traffic courts have a real impact on public safety. You can be very creative with kids really learning from their mistakes and not living with this infraction on their record, which causes insurance rates to go up,” said Margaret Fisher, who co-founded the city's youth traffic court in 2012. “I think it’s very important that kids have this intervention.” 

RRRRR

Teen Drivers Serve Unique Sentences

Every defendant is sentenced to at least one jury duty in a future youth traffic court hearing. The rest of the punishment depends on the facts of each case, and it’s heavily influenced by a teen driver’s demeanor.

“The defendant decides what they are going to get,  as I like to see it,” said Mitke, the 16-year-old student judge. "It’s based on their attitude, their knowledge about what they have done and how they respond to the questions. That’s what helps the jury determine what happens.” 

RRRRRRR

They could be required to complete community service hours, write a letter of apology, write an essay, interview a police officer or fulfill another punishment set by the room full of jurors who deliberate after each defendant takes the stand.

“They can make stuff up if they want. I’ve seen them give meditation to somebody who was speeding because she broke up with her boyfriend,” said Jennifer Bitner, a 24 year-old Seattle University law student who has helped manage the youth court for three years.

After his April hearing, Isaiah Smith, a 17-year-old West Seattle High School student, was sentenced to serve on three youth court juries to clear up a $207 speeding ticket he got in January.

Student jurors also decided he would need to find two newspaper stories about how speeding caused a major accident and write a 150 word reflection about each story.

RRRRRR

“It’s not the same kind of impact they would have if all they did was pay a fine,” said Margaret Fisher, co-founder of the program.

Smith told judges he was speeding because he was running late for school on the first day of winter quarter. During deliberations in his case, jurors acknowledged the punishment the teen already had served when his parents took away his car for three months.

“I think it’s really interesting (being a juror) because you get to weigh both sides of the issue and you get to try and solve the problem,” said Alex Reynolds, a 15-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the presiding juror in Smith’s case. "You’re thinking of what would be the best disposition to give this person? What would be the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen again?" 

RRRRRRRRR

High School Students Learn Justice System

Just as the 16 and 17-year-old defendants in the courtroom learn important lessons about becoming better drivers, the student volunteers are learning, too.

“It’s a benefit to the youth who are volunteering because they get a chance to be part of the legal process. They get a view of the courts and the law, and they themselves are young drivers,” said Fischer.

That’s a big deal because many of the students want to pursue careers in law.  They get community service hours for their participation and face time with with professionals, like two Seattle police officers assigned to the youth court and Karen Donoue, the Seattle Municipal Court’s presiding judge.
 

RRRRRR

“We wanted the whole student (court) model because we want more youth engaged in learning about civic responsibilities,” said Donoue, who co-founded the youth court with Fisher. "It’s more fun to have the kids do it. It’s also a much more meaningful experience for kids to have kids make the rulings… and hear the evidence.”

In their monthly trainings with Seattle University law students, the Garfield High School volunteers review their upcoming cases and dissect the ones that came the month before.

Corinne Davenport is a 17-year-old aspiring lawyer who was afraid to talk in front of strangers before she joined the youth court three years ago. Now, she sits on the judge’s bench and wears a robe.  

RRRRRRRR

“I definitely am better at being professional around people that I don’t know. I’ve learned more how to be a professional person in professional settings —  in a formal setting, like a court room. I’ve learned how to follow court decorum and also have a good time,” she said.

For Rosenast, her time as a defendant was a window into the legal process that she had never seen before.

"I kind of learned just like the formation of the court and who does what. I never really knew like the positions of the court and what their actual responsibility was. I just knew a judge was top gun and then there was the defendant,” she said.

'I Didn't Have Perspective On The Consequences' 

Rosenast described the mood in the courtroom as “tense” while she waited for jurors to return with her fate.

“Everyone was very silent,” Rosenast said. “Everyone was apprehensive.”

RRRRRR

About ten minutes later, the jurors returned and read her sentence aloud.

They  decided Rosenast should interview a school bus driver about the safety of driving in school zones and write a two page, single-spaced paper about what she learned. She must also serve on four youth court juries in order to clear her record.

“(Before this experience,) I didn’t have perspective on the consequences of getting a ticket and what goes into getting that off your record,” Lucia said. “Now I know how much it takes going to all these court cases and putting in all this time. It gives me more perspective,” she said. 

Her father, who watched the hearing from the audience, said he’s hopeful the sentence will teach his daughter something new that paying a fine wouldn’t accomplish.

"I think any bus driver has some really good stories of people that ignore that stop sign and close calls or maybe even kids getting hit,” Alex Rosenast said.  "We’ve all seen that happen where people don’t see the bus, so maybe she’ll get a real eye-opening discussion about how intense that is for the bus driver.”

Sixteen-year-old Lucia Rosenast didn’t know what to expect when she showed up for her first-ever hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court.

“It was a little daunting. I kind of nervous that I was going to be put on the spot, and then I kind of was worried there would be an audience of people judging me,” she said. 

Lucia Rosenhart, 16, of Seattle (left), sits next to her defensive advisor, Hermela Shiferaw, 16, of Seattle, during a traffic youth court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

With a crowd on the benches behind her, Rosenast took an oath and stated her name. But that was only the “normal" part of the next 20 minutes. 

"What’s your GPA?... Do you have any extra curricular activities?... How long have you had your license?” a panel of judges asked the Seattle Academy student. 

Rosenast was there to take responsibility for the traffic mishap that landed her a $419 ticket in January. By telling her story — that she failed to stop for a school bus when she picked up her 14-year-old sister,  she stood a chance at getting her driving record wiped clean.
 
She’d pay a price for the hefty ticket. But she wouldn’t have to pay the fine.  Her fate depended on other teen drivers — the six jurors — who’ve all been defendants in the same hot seat before. 

RRRRRRR

This isn’t your ordinary court hearing. It’s the Seattle Youth Traffic Court, where Garfield High School students are the judges, prosecutors, attorneys and bailiffs once a month. The defendants are 16 and 17-year-old drivers with first-time traffic violations who admit to the offenses and get a clean slate. 

The jurors, also high school students, deliberate and decide on creative, unconventional sentences that teach teen drivers a lesson and restore peace in the communities where driving mistakes caused damage.

“It’s all about getting what you’ve done and trying to acknowledge the consequences of what could have happened,” said Jennet Mitkie, a 16-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the head judge for Rosenast’s hearing. 

From left to right: Student judges Dahlia Gemmer, 16, Jennet Mitikie, 16, and Corinne Davenport, 17, question a teenage defendant during a youth traffic court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

The Seattle diversion program, which operates under Washington law, started in 2012. It’s one of about 1,400 youth courts around the country where young people are sentenced by their peers.  Seattle University law students manage the cases and offer monthly trainings for the 17 student volunteers, who are often interested in careers in the justice system.

“Traffic courts have a real impact on public safety. You can be very creative with kids really learning from their mistakes and not living with this infraction on their record, which causes insurance rates to go up,” said Margaret Fisher, who co-founded the city's youth traffic court in 2012. “I think it’s very important that kids have this intervention.” 

RRRRR

Teen Drivers Serve Unique Sentences

Every defendant is sentenced to at least one jury duty in a future youth traffic court hearing. The rest of the punishment depends on the facts of each case, and it’s heavily influenced by a teen driver’s demeanor.

“The defendant decides what they are going to get,  as I like to see it,” said Mitke, the 16-year-old student judge. "It’s based on their attitude, their knowledge about what they have done and how they respond to the questions. That’s what helps the jury determine what happens.” 

RRRRRRR

They could be required to complete community service hours, write a letter of apology, write an essay, interview a police officer or fulfill another punishment set by the room full of jurors who deliberate after each defendant takes the stand.

“They can make stuff up if they want. I’ve seen them give meditation to somebody who was speeding because she broke up with her boyfriend,” said Jennifer Bitner, a 24 year-old Seattle University law student who has helped manage the youth court for three years.

After his April hearing, Isaiah Smith, a 17-year-old West Seattle High School student, was sentenced to serve on three youth court juries to clear up a $207 speeding ticket he got in January.

Student jurors also decided he would need to find two newspaper stories about how speeding caused a major accident and write a 150 word reflection about each story.

RRRRRR

“It’s not the same kind of impact they would have if all they did was pay a fine,” said Margaret Fisher, co-founder of the program.

Smith told judges he was speeding because he was running late for school on the first day of winter quarter. During deliberations in his case, jurors acknowledged the punishment the teen already had served when his parents took away his car for three months.

“I think it’s really interesting (being a juror) because you get to weigh both sides of the issue and you get to try and solve the problem,” said Alex Reynolds, a 15-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the presiding juror in Smith’s case. "You’re thinking of what would be the best disposition to give this person? What would be the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen again?" 

RRRRRRRRR

High School Students Learn Justice System

Just as the 16 and 17-year-old defendants in the courtroom learn important lessons about becoming better drivers, the student volunteers are learning, too.

“It’s a benefit to the youth who are volunteering because they get a chance to be part of the legal process. They get a view of the courts and the law, and they themselves are young drivers,” said Fischer.

That’s a big deal because many of the students want to pursue careers in law.  They get community service hours for their participation and face time with with professionals, like two Seattle police officers assigned to the youth court and Karen Donoue, the Seattle Municipal Court’s presiding judge.
 

RRRRRR

“We wanted the whole student (court) model because we want more youth engaged in learning about civic responsibilities,” said Donoue, who co-founded the youth court with Fisher. "It’s more fun to have the kids do it. It’s also a much more meaningful experience for kids to have kids make the rulings… and hear the evidence.”

In their monthly trainings with Seattle University law students, the Garfield High School volunteers review their upcoming cases and dissect the ones that came the month before.

Corinne Davenport is a 17-year-old aspiring lawyer who was afraid to talk in front of strangers before she joined the youth court three years ago. Now, she sits on the judge’s bench and wears a robe.  

RRRRRRRR

“I definitely am better at being professional around people that I don’t know. I’ve learned more how to be a professional person in professional settings —  in a formal setting, like a court room. I’ve learned how to follow court decorum and also have a good time,” she said.

For Rosenast, her time as a defendant was a window into the legal process that she had never seen before.

"I kind of learned just like the formation of the court and who does what. I never really knew like the positions of the court and what their actual responsibility was. I just knew a judge was top gun and then there was the defendant,” she said.

'I Didn't Have Perspective On The Consequences' 

Rosenast described the mood in the courtroom as “tense” while she waited for jurors to return with her fate.

“Everyone was very silent,” Rosenast said. “Everyone was apprehensive.”

RRRRRR

About ten minutes later, the jurors returned and read her sentence aloud.

They  decided Rosenast should interview a school bus driver about the safety of driving in school zones and write a two page, single-spaced paper about what she learned. She must also serve on four youth court juries in order to clear her record.

“(Before this experience,) I didn’t have perspective on the consequences of getting a ticket and what goes into getting that off your record,” Lucia said. “Now I know how much it takes going to all these court cases and putting in all this time. It gives me more perspective,” she said. 

Her father, who watched the hearing from the audience, said he’s hopeful the sentence will teach his daughter something new that paying a fine wouldn’t accomplish.

"I think any bus driver has some really good stories of people that ignore that stop sign and close calls or maybe even kids getting hit,” Alex Rosenast said.  "We’ve all seen that happen where people don’t see the bus, so maybe she’ll get a real eye-opening discussion about how intense that is for the bus driver.”

Sixteen-year-old Lucia Rosenast didn’t know what to expect when she showed up for her first-ever hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court.

“It was a little daunting. I kind of nervous that I was going to be put on the spot, and then I kind of was worried there would be an audience of people judging me,” she said. 

Lucia Rosenhart, 16, of Seattle (left), sits next to her defensive advisor, Hermela Shiferaw, 16, of Seattle, during a traffic youth court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

With a crowd on the benches behind her, Rosenast took an oath and stated her name. But that was only the “normal" part of the next 20 minutes. 

"What’s your GPA?... Do you have any extra curricular activities?... How long have you had your license?” a panel of judges asked the Seattle Academy student. 

Rosenast was there to take responsibility for the traffic mishap that landed her a $419 ticket in January. By telling her story — that she failed to stop for a school bus when she picked up her 14-year-old sister,  she stood a chance at getting her driving record wiped clean.
 
She’d pay a price for the hefty ticket. But she wouldn’t have to pay the fine.  Her fate depended on other teen drivers — the six jurors — who’ve all been defendants in the same hot seat before. 

RRRRRRR

This isn’t your ordinary court hearing. It’s the Seattle Youth Traffic Court, where Garfield High School students are the judges, prosecutors, attorneys and bailiffs once a month. The defendants are 16 and 17-year-old drivers with first-time traffic violations who admit to the offenses and get a clean slate. 

The jurors, also high school students, deliberate and decide on creative, unconventional sentences that teach teen drivers a lesson and restore peace in the communities where driving mistakes caused damage.

“It’s all about getting what you’ve done and trying to acknowledge the consequences of what could have happened,” said Jennet Mitkie, a 16-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the head judge for Rosenast’s hearing. 

From left to right: Student judges Dahlia Gemmer, 16, Jennet Mitikie, 16, and Corinne Davenport, 17, question a teenage defendant during a youth traffic court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

The Seattle diversion program, which operates under Washington law, started in 2012. It’s one of about 1,400 youth courts around the country where young people are sentenced by their peers.  Seattle University law students manage the cases and offer monthly trainings for the 17 student volunteers, who are often interested in careers in the justice system.

“Traffic courts have a real impact on public safety. You can be very creative with kids really learning from their mistakes and not living with this infraction on their record, which causes insurance rates to go up,” said Margaret Fisher, who co-founded the city's youth traffic court in 2012. “I think it’s very important that kids have this intervention.” 

RRRRR

Teen Drivers Serve Unique Sentences

Every defendant is sentenced to at least one jury duty in a future youth traffic court hearing. The rest of the punishment depends on the facts of each case, and it’s heavily influenced by a teen driver’s demeanor.

“The defendant decides what they are going to get,  as I like to see it,” said Mitke, the 16-year-old student judge. "It’s based on their attitude, their knowledge about what they have done and how they respond to the questions. That’s what helps the jury determine what happens.” 

RRRRRRR

They could be required to complete community service hours, write a letter of apology, write an essay, interview a police officer or fulfill another punishment set by the room full of jurors who deliberate after each defendant takes the stand.

“They can make stuff up if they want. I’ve seen them give meditation to somebody who was speeding because she broke up with her boyfriend,” said Jennifer Bitner, a 24 year-old Seattle University law student who has helped manage the youth court for three years.

After his April hearing, Isaiah Smith, a 17-year-old West Seattle High School student, was sentenced to serve on three youth court juries to clear up a $207 speeding ticket he got in January.

Student jurors also decided he would need to find two newspaper stories about how speeding caused a major accident and write a 150 word reflection about each story.

RRRRRR

“It’s not the same kind of impact they would have if all they did was pay a fine,” said Margaret Fisher, co-founder of the program.

Smith told judges he was speeding because he was running late for school on the first day of winter quarter. During deliberations in his case, jurors acknowledged the punishment the teen already had served when his parents took away his car for three months.

“I think it’s really interesting (being a juror) because you get to weigh both sides of the issue and you get to try and solve the problem,” said Alex Reynolds, a 15-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the presiding juror in Smith’s case. "You’re thinking of what would be the best disposition to give this person? What would be the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen again?" 

RRRRRRRRR

High School Students Learn Justice System

Just as the 16 and 17-year-old defendants in the courtroom learn important lessons about becoming better drivers, the student volunteers are learning, too.

“It’s a benefit to the youth who are volunteering because they get a chance to be part of the legal process. They get a view of the courts and the law, and they themselves are young drivers,” said Fischer.

That’s a big deal because many of the students want to pursue careers in law.  They get community service hours for their participation and face time with with professionals, like two Seattle police officers assigned to the youth court and Karen Donoue, the Seattle Municipal Court’s presiding judge.
 

RRRRRR

“We wanted the whole student (court) model because we want more youth engaged in learning about civic responsibilities,” said Donoue, who co-founded the youth court with Fisher. "It’s more fun to have the kids do it. It’s also a much more meaningful experience for kids to have kids make the rulings… and hear the evidence.”

In their monthly trainings with Seattle University law students, the Garfield High School volunteers review their upcoming cases and dissect the ones that came the month before.

Corinne Davenport is a 17-year-old aspiring lawyer who was afraid to talk in front of strangers before she joined the youth court three years ago. Now, she sits on the judge’s bench and wears a robe.  

RRRRRRRR

“I definitely am better at being professional around people that I don’t know. I’ve learned more how to be a professional person in professional settings —  in a formal setting, like a court room. I’ve learned how to follow court decorum and also have a good time,” she said.

For Rosenast, her time as a defendant was a window into the legal process that she had never seen before.

"I kind of learned just like the formation of the court and who does what. I never really knew like the positions of the court and what their actual responsibility was. I just knew a judge was top gun and then there was the defendant,” she said.

'I Didn't Have Perspective On The Consequences' 

Rosenast described the mood in the courtroom as “tense” while she waited for jurors to return with her fate.

“Everyone was very silent,” Rosenast said. “Everyone was apprehensive.”

RRRRRR

About ten minutes later, the jurors returned and read her sentence aloud.

They  decided Rosenast should interview a school bus driver about the safety of driving in school zones and write a two page, single-spaced paper about what she learned. She must also serve on four youth court juries in order to clear her record.

“(Before this experience,) I didn’t have perspective on the consequences of getting a ticket and what goes into getting that off your record,” Lucia said. “Now I know how much it takes going to all these court cases and putting in all this time. It gives me more perspective,” she said. 

Her father, who watched the hearing from the audience, said he’s hopeful the sentence will teach his daughter something new that paying a fine wouldn’t accomplish.

"I think any bus driver has some really good stories of people that ignore that stop sign and close calls or maybe even kids getting hit,” Alex Rosenast said.  "We’ve all seen that happen where people don’t see the bus, so maybe she’ll get a real eye-opening discussion about how intense that is for the bus driver.”

Sixteen-year-old Lucia Rosenast didn’t know what to expect when she showed up for her first-ever hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court.

“It was a little daunting. I kind of nervous that I was going to be put on the spot, and then I kind of was worried there would be an audience of people judging me,” she said. 

Lucia Rosenhart, 16, of Seattle (left), sits next to her defensive advisor, Hermela Shiferaw, 16, of Seattle, during a traffic youth court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

With a crowd on the benches behind her, Rosenast took an oath and stated her name. But that was only the “normal" part of the next 20 minutes. 

"What’s your GPA?... Do you have any extra curricular activities?... How long have you had your license?” a panel of judges asked the Seattle Academy student. 

Rosenast was there to take responsibility for the traffic mishap that landed her a $419 ticket in January. By telling her story — that she failed to stop for a school bus when she picked up her 14-year-old sister,  she stood a chance at getting her driving record wiped clean.
 
She’d pay a price for the hefty ticket. But she wouldn’t have to pay the fine.  Her fate depended on other teen drivers — the six jurors — who’ve all been defendants in the same hot seat before. 

RRRRRRR

This isn’t your ordinary court hearing. It’s the Seattle Youth Traffic Court, where Garfield High School students are the judges, prosecutors, attorneys and bailiffs once a month. The defendants are 16 and 17-year-old drivers with first-time traffic violations who admit to the offenses and get a clean slate. 

The jurors, also high school students, deliberate and decide on creative, unconventional sentences that teach teen drivers a lesson and restore peace in the communities where driving mistakes caused damage.

“It’s all about getting what you’ve done and trying to acknowledge the consequences of what could have happened,” said Jennet Mitkie, a 16-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the head judge for Rosenast’s hearing. 

From left to right: Student judges Dahlia Gemmer, 16, Jennet Mitikie, 16, and Corinne Davenport, 17, question a teenage defendant during a youth traffic court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

The Seattle diversion program, which operates under Washington law, started in 2012. It’s one of about 1,400 youth courts around the country where young people are sentenced by their peers.  Seattle University law students manage the cases and offer monthly trainings for the 17 student volunteers, who are often interested in careers in the justice system.

“Traffic courts have a real impact on public safety. You can be very creative with kids really learning from their mistakes and not living with this infraction on their record, which causes insurance rates to go up,” said Margaret Fisher, who co-founded the city's youth traffic court in 2012. “I think it’s very important that kids have this intervention.” 

RRRRR

Teen Drivers Serve Unique Sentences

Every defendant is sentenced to at least one jury duty in a future youth traffic court hearing. The rest of the punishment depends on the facts of each case, and it’s heavily influenced by a teen driver’s demeanor.

“The defendant decides what they are going to get,  as I like to see it,” said Mitke, the 16-year-old student judge. "It’s based on their attitude, their knowledge about what they have done and how they respond to the questions. That’s what helps the jury determine what happens.” 

RRRRRRR

They could be required to complete community service hours, write a letter of apology, write an essay, interview a police officer or fulfill another punishment set by the room full of jurors who deliberate after each defendant takes the stand.

“They can make stuff up if they want. I’ve seen them give meditation to somebody who was speeding because she broke up with her boyfriend,” said Jennifer Bitner, a 24 year-old Seattle University law student who has helped manage the youth court for three years.

After his April hearing, Isaiah Smith, a 17-year-old West Seattle High School student, was sentenced to serve on three youth court juries to clear up a $207 speeding ticket he got in January.

Student jurors also decided he would need to find two newspaper stories about how speeding caused a major accident and write a 150 word reflection about each story.

RRRRRR

“It’s not the same kind of impact they would have if all they did was pay a fine,” said Margaret Fisher, co-founder of the program.

Smith told judges he was speeding because he was running late for school on the first day of winter quarter. During deliberations in his case, jurors acknowledged the punishment the teen already had served when his parents took away his car for three months.

“I think it’s really interesting (being a juror) because you get to weigh both sides of the issue and you get to try and solve the problem,” said Alex Reynolds, a 15-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the presiding juror in Smith’s case. "You’re thinking of what would be the best disposition to give this person? What would be the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen again?" 

RRRRRRRRR

High School Students Learn Justice System

Just as the 16 and 17-year-old defendants in the courtroom learn important lessons about becoming better drivers, the student volunteers are learning, too.

“It’s a benefit to the youth who are volunteering because they get a chance to be part of the legal process. They get a view of the courts and the law, and they themselves are young drivers,” said Fischer.

That’s a big deal because many of the students want to pursue careers in law.  They get community service hours for their participation and face time with with professionals, like two Seattle police officers assigned to the youth court and Karen Donoue, the Seattle Municipal Court’s presiding judge.
 

RRRRRR

“We wanted the whole student (court) model because we want more youth engaged in learning about civic responsibilities,” said Donoue, who co-founded the youth court with Fisher. "It’s more fun to have the kids do it. It’s also a much more meaningful experience for kids to have kids make the rulings… and hear the evidence.”

In their monthly trainings with Seattle University law students, the Garfield High School volunteers review their upcoming cases and dissect the ones that came the month before.

Corinne Davenport is a 17-year-old aspiring lawyer who was afraid to talk in front of strangers before she joined the youth court three years ago. Now, she sits on the judge’s bench and wears a robe.  

RRRRRRRR

“I definitely am better at being professional around people that I don’t know. I’ve learned more how to be a professional person in professional settings —  in a formal setting, like a court room. I’ve learned how to follow court decorum and also have a good time,” she said.

For Rosenast, her time as a defendant was a window into the legal process that she had never seen before.

"I kind of learned just like the formation of the court and who does what. I never really knew like the positions of the court and what their actual responsibility was. I just knew a judge was top gun and then there was the defendant,” she said.

'I Didn't Have Perspective On The Consequences' 

Rosenast described the mood in the courtroom as “tense” while she waited for jurors to return with her fate.

“Everyone was very silent,” Rosenast said. “Everyone was apprehensive.”

RRRRRR

About ten minutes later, the jurors returned and read her sentence aloud.

They  decided Rosenast should interview a school bus driver about the safety of driving in school zones and write a two page, single-spaced paper about what she learned. She must also serve on four youth court juries in order to clear her record.

“(Before this experience,) I didn’t have perspective on the consequences of getting a ticket and what goes into getting that off your record,” Lucia said. “Now I know how much it takes going to all these court cases and putting in all this time. It gives me more perspective,” she said. 

Her father, who watched the hearing from the audience, said he’s hopeful the sentence will teach his daughter something new that paying a fine wouldn’t accomplish.

"I think any bus driver has some really good stories of people that ignore that stop sign and close calls or maybe even kids getting hit,” Alex Rosenast said.  "We’ve all seen that happen where people don’t see the bus, so maybe she’ll get a real eye-opening discussion about how intense that is for the bus driver.”

Sixteen-year-old Lucia Rosenast didn’t know what to expect when she showed up for her first-ever hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court.

“It was a little daunting. I kind of nervous that I was going to be put on the spot, and then I kind of was worried there would be an audience of people judging me,” she said. 

Lucia Rosenhart, 16, of Seattle (left), sits next to her defensive advisor, Hermela Shiferaw, 16, of Seattle, during a traffic youth court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

With a crowd on the benches behind her, Rosenast took an oath and stated her name. But that was only the “normal" part of the next 20 minutes. 

"What’s your GPA?... Do you have any extra curricular activities?... How long have you had your license?” a panel of judges asked the Seattle Academy student. 

Rosenast was there to take responsibility for the traffic mishap that landed her a $419 ticket in January. By telling her story — that she failed to stop for a school bus when she picked up her 14-year-old sister,  she stood a chance at getting her driving record wiped clean.
 
She’d pay a price for the hefty ticket. But she wouldn’t have to pay the fine.  Her fate depended on other teen drivers — the six jurors — who’ve all been defendants in the same hot seat before. 

RRRRRRR

This isn’t your ordinary court hearing. It’s the Seattle Youth Traffic Court, where Garfield High School students are the judges, prosecutors, attorneys and bailiffs once a month. The defendants are 16 and 17-year-old drivers with first-time traffic violations who admit to the offenses and get a clean slate. 

The jurors, also high school students, deliberate and decide on creative, unconventional sentences that teach teen drivers a lesson and restore peace in the communities where driving mistakes caused damage.

“It’s all about getting what you’ve done and trying to acknowledge the consequences of what could have happened,” said Jennet Mitkie, a 16-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the head judge for Rosenast’s hearing. 

From left to right: Student judges Dahlia Gemmer, 16, Jennet Mitikie, 16, and Corinne Davenport, 17, question a teenage defendant during a youth traffic court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

The Seattle diversion program, which operates under Washington law, started in 2012. It’s one of about 1,400 youth courts around the country where young people are sentenced by their peers.  Seattle University law students manage the cases and offer monthly trainings for the 17 student volunteers, who are often interested in careers in the justice system.

“Traffic courts have a real impact on public safety. You can be very creative with kids really learning from their mistakes and not living with this infraction on their record, which causes insurance rates to go up,” said Margaret Fisher, who co-founded the city's youth traffic court in 2012. “I think it’s very important that kids have this intervention.” 

RRRRR

Teen Drivers Serve Unique Sentences

Every defendant is sentenced to at least one jury duty in a future youth traffic court hearing. The rest of the punishment depends on the facts of each case, and it’s heavily influenced by a teen driver’s demeanor.

“The defendant decides what they are going to get,  as I like to see it,” said Mitke, the 16-year-old student judge. "It’s based on their attitude, their knowledge about what they have done and how they respond to the questions. That’s what helps the jury determine what happens.” 

RRRRRRR

They could be required to complete community service hours, write a letter of apology, write an essay, interview a police officer or fulfill another punishment set by the room full of jurors who deliberate after each defendant takes the stand.

“They can make stuff up if they want. I’ve seen them give meditation to somebody who was speeding because she broke up with her boyfriend,” said Jennifer Bitner, a 24 year-old Seattle University law student who has helped manage the youth court for three years.

After his April hearing, Isaiah Smith, a 17-year-old West Seattle High School student, was sentenced to serve on three youth court juries to clear up a $207 speeding ticket he got in January.

Student jurors also decided he would need to find two newspaper stories about how speeding caused a major accident and write a 150 word reflection about each story.

RRRRRR

“It’s not the same kind of impact they would have if all they did was pay a fine,” said Margaret Fisher, co-founder of the program.

Smith told judges he was speeding because he was running late for school on the first day of winter quarter. During deliberations in his case, jurors acknowledged the punishment the teen already had served when his parents took away his car for three months.

“I think it’s really interesting (being a juror) because you get to weigh both sides of the issue and you get to try and solve the problem,” said Alex Reynolds, a 15-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the presiding juror in Smith’s case. "You’re thinking of what would be the best disposition to give this person? What would be the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen again?" 

RRRRRRRRR

High School Students Learn Justice System

Just as the 16 and 17-year-old defendants in the courtroom learn important lessons about becoming better drivers, the student volunteers are learning, too.

“It’s a benefit to the youth who are volunteering because they get a chance to be part of the legal process. They get a view of the courts and the law, and they themselves are young drivers,” said Fischer.

That’s a big deal because many of the students want to pursue careers in law.  They get community service hours for their participation and face time with with professionals, like two Seattle police officers assigned to the youth court and Karen Donoue, the Seattle Municipal Court’s presiding judge.
 

RRRRRR

“We wanted the whole student (court) model because we want more youth engaged in learning about civic responsibilities,” said Donoue, who co-founded the youth court with Fisher. "It’s more fun to have the kids do it. It’s also a much more meaningful experience for kids to have kids make the rulings… and hear the evidence.”

In their monthly trainings with Seattle University law students, the Garfield High School volunteers review their upcoming cases and dissect the ones that came the month before.

Corinne Davenport is a 17-year-old aspiring lawyer who was afraid to talk in front of strangers before she joined the youth court three years ago. Now, she sits on the judge’s bench and wears a robe.  

RRRRRRRR

“I definitely am better at being professional around people that I don’t know. I’ve learned more how to be a professional person in professional settings —  in a formal setting, like a court room. I’ve learned how to follow court decorum and also have a good time,” she said.

For Rosenast, her time as a defendant was a window into the legal process that she had never seen before.

"I kind of learned just like the formation of the court and who does what. I never really knew like the positions of the court and what their actual responsibility was. I just knew a judge was top gun and then there was the defendant,” she said.

'I Didn't Have Perspective On The Consequences' 

Rosenast described the mood in the courtroom as “tense” while she waited for jurors to return with her fate.

“Everyone was very silent,” Rosenast said. “Everyone was apprehensive.”

RRRRRR

About ten minutes later, the jurors returned and read her sentence aloud.

They  decided Rosenast should interview a school bus driver about the safety of driving in school zones and write a two page, single-spaced paper about what she learned. She must also serve on four youth court juries in order to clear her record.

“(Before this experience,) I didn’t have perspective on the consequences of getting a ticket and what goes into getting that off your record,” Lucia said. “Now I know how much it takes going to all these court cases and putting in all this time. It gives me more perspective,” she said. 

Her father, who watched the hearing from the audience, said he’s hopeful the sentence will teach his daughter something new that paying a fine wouldn’t accomplish.

"I think any bus driver has some really good stories of people that ignore that stop sign and close calls or maybe even kids getting hit,” Alex Rosenast said.  "We’ve all seen that happen where people don’t see the bus, so maybe she’ll get a real eye-opening discussion about how intense that is for the bus driver.”

Sixteen-year-old Lucia Rosenast didn’t know what to expect when she showed up for her first-ever hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court.

“It was a little daunting. I kind of nervous that I was going to be put on the spot, and then I kind of was worried there would be an audience of people judging me,” she said. 

Lucia Rosenhart, 16, of Seattle (left), sits next to her defensive advisor, Hermela Shiferaw, 16, of Seattle, during a traffic youth court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

With a crowd on the benches behind her, Rosenast took an oath and stated her name. But that was only the “normal" part of the next 20 minutes. 

"What’s your GPA?... Do you have any extra curricular activities?... How long have you had your license?” a panel of judges asked the Seattle Academy student. 

Rosenast was there to take responsibility for the traffic mishap that landed her a $419 ticket in January. By telling her story — that she failed to stop for a school bus when she picked up her 14-year-old sister,  she stood a chance at getting her driving record wiped clean.
 
She’d pay a price for the hefty ticket. But she wouldn’t have to pay the fine.  Her fate depended on other teen drivers — the six jurors — who’ve all been defendants in the same hot seat before. 

RRRRRRR

This isn’t your ordinary court hearing. It’s the Seattle Youth Traffic Court, where Garfield High School students are the judges, prosecutors, attorneys and bailiffs once a month. The defendants are 16 and 17-year-old drivers with first-time traffic violations who admit to the offenses and get a clean slate. 

The jurors, also high school students, deliberate and decide on creative, unconventional sentences that teach teen drivers a lesson and restore peace in the communities where driving mistakes caused damage.

“It’s all about getting what you’ve done and trying to acknowledge the consequences of what could have happened,” said Jennet Mitkie, a 16-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the head judge for Rosenast’s hearing. 

From left to right: Student judges Dahlia Gemmer, 16, Jennet Mitikie, 16, and Corinne Davenport, 17, question a teenage defendant during a youth traffic court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

The Seattle diversion program, which operates under Washington law, started in 2012. It’s one of about 1,400 youth courts around the country where young people are sentenced by their peers.  Seattle University law students manage the cases and offer monthly trainings for the 17 student volunteers, who are often interested in careers in the justice system.

“Traffic courts have a real impact on public safety. You can be very creative with kids really learning from their mistakes and not living with this infraction on their record, which causes insurance rates to go up,” said Margaret Fisher, who co-founded the city's youth traffic court in 2012. “I think it’s very important that kids have this intervention.” 

RRRRR

Teen Drivers Serve Unique Sentences

Every defendant is sentenced to at least one jury duty in a future youth traffic court hearing. The rest of the punishment depends on the facts of each case, and it’s heavily influenced by a teen driver’s demeanor.

“The defendant decides what they are going to get,  as I like to see it,” said Mitke, the 16-year-old student judge. "It’s based on their attitude, their knowledge about what they have done and how they respond to the questions. That’s what helps the jury determine what happens.” 

RRRRRRR

They could be required to complete community service hours, write a letter of apology, write an essay, interview a police officer or fulfill another punishment set by the room full of jurors who deliberate after each defendant takes the stand.

“They can make stuff up if they want. I’ve seen them give meditation to somebody who was speeding because she broke up with her boyfriend,” said Jennifer Bitner, a 24 year-old Seattle University law student who has helped manage the youth court for three years.

After his April hearing, Isaiah Smith, a 17-year-old West Seattle High School student, was sentenced to serve on three youth court juries to clear up a $207 speeding ticket he got in January.

Student jurors also decided he would need to find two newspaper stories about how speeding caused a major accident and write a 150 word reflection about each story.

RRRRRR

“It’s not the same kind of impact they would have if all they did was pay a fine,” said Margaret Fisher, co-founder of the program.

Smith told judges he was speeding because he was running late for school on the first day of winter quarter. During deliberations in his case, jurors acknowledged the punishment the teen already had served when his parents took away his car for three months.

“I think it’s really interesting (being a juror) because you get to weigh both sides of the issue and you get to try and solve the problem,” said Alex Reynolds, a 15-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the presiding juror in Smith’s case. "You’re thinking of what would be the best disposition to give this person? What would be the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen again?" 

RRRRRRRRR

High School Students Learn Justice System

Just as the 16 and 17-year-old defendants in the courtroom learn important lessons about becoming better drivers, the student volunteers are learning, too.

“It’s a benefit to the youth who are volunteering because they get a chance to be part of the legal process. They get a view of the courts and the law, and they themselves are young drivers,” said Fischer.

That’s a big deal because many of the students want to pursue careers in law.  They get community service hours for their participation and face time with with professionals, like two Seattle police officers assigned to the youth court and Karen Donoue, the Seattle Municipal Court’s presiding judge.
 

RRRRRR

“We wanted the whole student (court) model because we want more youth engaged in learning about civic responsibilities,” said Donoue, who co-founded the youth court with Fisher. "It’s more fun to have the kids do it. It’s also a much more meaningful experience for kids to have kids make the rulings… and hear the evidence.”

In their monthly trainings with Seattle University law students, the Garfield High School volunteers review their upcoming cases and dissect the ones that came the month before.

Corinne Davenport is a 17-year-old aspiring lawyer who was afraid to talk in front of strangers before she joined the youth court three years ago. Now, she sits on the judge’s bench and wears a robe.  

RRRRRRRR

“I definitely am better at being professional around people that I don’t know. I’ve learned more how to be a professional person in professional settings —  in a formal setting, like a court room. I’ve learned how to follow court decorum and also have a good time,” she said.

For Rosenast, her time as a defendant was a window into the legal process that she had never seen before.

"I kind of learned just like the formation of the court and who does what. I never really knew like the positions of the court and what their actual responsibility was. I just knew a judge was top gun and then there was the defendant,” she said.

'I Didn't Have Perspective On The Consequences' 

Rosenast described the mood in the courtroom as “tense” while she waited for jurors to return with her fate.

“Everyone was very silent,” Rosenast said. “Everyone was apprehensive.”

RRRRRR

About ten minutes later, the jurors returned and read her sentence aloud.

They  decided Rosenast should interview a school bus driver about the safety of driving in school zones and write a two page, single-spaced paper about what she learned. She must also serve on four youth court juries in order to clear her record.

“(Before this experience,) I didn’t have perspective on the consequences of getting a ticket and what goes into getting that off your record,” Lucia said. “Now I know how much it takes going to all these court cases and putting in all this time. It gives me more perspective,” she said. 

Her father, who watched the hearing from the audience, said he’s hopeful the sentence will teach his daughter something new that paying a fine wouldn’t accomplish.

"I think any bus driver has some really good stories of people that ignore that stop sign and close calls or maybe even kids getting hit,” Alex Rosenast said.  "We’ve all seen that happen where people don’t see the bus, so maybe she’ll get a real eye-opening discussion about how intense that is for the bus driver.”

Sixteen-year-old Lucia Rosenast didn’t know what to expect when she showed up for her first-ever hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court.

“It was a little daunting. I kind of nervous that I was going to be put on the spot, and then I kind of was worried there would be an audience of people judging me,” she said. 

Lucia Rosenhart, 16, of Seattle (left), sits next to her defensive advisor, Hermela Shiferaw, 16, of Seattle, during a traffic youth court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

With a crowd on the benches behind her, Rosenast took an oath and stated her name. But that was only the “normal" part of the next 20 minutes. 

"What’s your GPA?... Do you have any extra curricular activities?... How long have you had your license?” a panel of judges asked the Seattle Academy student. 

Rosenast was there to take responsibility for the traffic mishap that landed her a $419 ticket in January. By telling her story — that she failed to stop for a school bus when she picked up her 14-year-old sister,  she stood a chance at getting her driving record wiped clean.
 
She’d pay a price for the hefty ticket. But she wouldn’t have to pay the fine.  Her fate depended on other teen drivers — the six jurors — who’ve all been defendants in the same hot seat before. 

RRRRRRR

This isn’t your ordinary court hearing. It’s the Seattle Youth Traffic Court, where Garfield High School students are the judges, prosecutors, attorneys and bailiffs once a month. The defendants are 16 and 17-year-old drivers with first-time traffic violations who admit to the offenses and get a clean slate. 

The jurors, also high school students, deliberate and decide on creative, unconventional sentences that teach teen drivers a lesson and restore peace in the communities where driving mistakes caused damage.

“It’s all about getting what you’ve done and trying to acknowledge the consequences of what could have happened,” said Jennet Mitkie, a 16-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the head judge for Rosenast’s hearing. 

From left to right: Student judges Dahlia Gemmer, 16, Jennet Mitikie, 16, and Corinne Davenport, 17, question a teenage defendant during a youth traffic court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

The Seattle diversion program, which operates under Washington law, started in 2012. It’s one of about 1,400 youth courts around the country where young people are sentenced by their peers.  Seattle University law students manage the cases and offer monthly trainings for the 17 student volunteers, who are often interested in careers in the justice system.

“Traffic courts have a real impact on public safety. You can be very creative with kids really learning from their mistakes and not living with this infraction on their record, which causes insurance rates to go up,” said Margaret Fisher, who co-founded the city's youth traffic court in 2012. “I think it’s very important that kids have this intervention.” 

RRRRR

Teen Drivers Serve Unique Sentences

Every defendant is sentenced to at least one jury duty in a future youth traffic court hearing. The rest of the punishment depends on the facts of each case, and it’s heavily influenced by a teen driver’s demeanor.

“The defendant decides what they are going to get,  as I like to see it,” said Mitke, the 16-year-old student judge. "It’s based on their attitude, their knowledge about what they have done and how they respond to the questions. That’s what helps the jury determine what happens.” 

RRRRRRR

They could be required to complete community service hours, write a letter of apology, write an essay, interview a police officer or fulfill another punishment set by the room full of jurors who deliberate after each defendant takes the stand.

“They can make stuff up if they want. I’ve seen them give meditation to somebody who was speeding because she broke up with her boyfriend,” said Jennifer Bitner, a 24 year-old Seattle University law student who has helped manage the youth court for three years.

After his April hearing, Isaiah Smith, a 17-year-old West Seattle High School student, was sentenced to serve on three youth court juries to clear up a $207 speeding ticket he got in January.

Student jurors also decided he would need to find two newspaper stories about how speeding caused a major accident and write a 150 word reflection about each story.

RRRRRR

“It’s not the same kind of impact they would have if all they did was pay a fine,” said Margaret Fisher, co-founder of the program.

Smith told judges he was speeding because he was running late for school on the first day of winter quarter. During deliberations in his case, jurors acknowledged the punishment the teen already had served when his parents took away his car for three months.

“I think it’s really interesting (being a juror) because you get to weigh both sides of the issue and you get to try and solve the problem,” said Alex Reynolds, a 15-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the presiding juror in Smith’s case. "You’re thinking of what would be the best disposition to give this person? What would be the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen again?" 

RRRRRRRRR

High School Students Learn Justice System

Just as the 16 and 17-year-old defendants in the courtroom learn important lessons about becoming better drivers, the student volunteers are learning, too.

“It’s a benefit to the youth who are volunteering because they get a chance to be part of the legal process. They get a view of the courts and the law, and they themselves are young drivers,” said Fischer.

That’s a big deal because many of the students want to pursue careers in law.  They get community service hours for their participation and face time with with professionals, like two Seattle police officers assigned to the youth court and Karen Donoue, the Seattle Municipal Court’s presiding judge.
 

RRRRRR

“We wanted the whole student (court) model because we want more youth engaged in learning about civic responsibilities,” said Donoue, who co-founded the youth court with Fisher. "It’s more fun to have the kids do it. It’s also a much more meaningful experience for kids to have kids make the rulings… and hear the evidence.”

In their monthly trainings with Seattle University law students, the Garfield High School volunteers review their upcoming cases and dissect the ones that came the month before.

Corinne Davenport is a 17-year-old aspiring lawyer who was afraid to talk in front of strangers before she joined the youth court three years ago. Now, she sits on the judge’s bench and wears a robe.  

RRRRRRRR

“I definitely am better at being professional around people that I don’t know. I’ve learned more how to be a professional person in professional settings —  in a formal setting, like a court room. I’ve learned how to follow court decorum and also have a good time,” she said.

For Rosenast, her time as a defendant was a window into the legal process that she had never seen before.

"I kind of learned just like the formation of the court and who does what. I never really knew like the positions of the court and what their actual responsibility was. I just knew a judge was top gun and then there was the defendant,” she said.

'I Didn't Have Perspective On The Consequences' 

Rosenast described the mood in the courtroom as “tense” while she waited for jurors to return with her fate.

“Everyone was very silent,” Rosenast said. “Everyone was apprehensive.”

RRRRRR

About ten minutes later, the jurors returned and read her sentence aloud.

They  decided Rosenast should interview a school bus driver about the safety of driving in school zones and write a two page, single-spaced paper about what she learned. She must also serve on four youth court juries in order to clear her record.

“(Before this experience,) I didn’t have perspective on the consequences of getting a ticket and what goes into getting that off your record,” Lucia said. “Now I know how much it takes going to all these court cases and putting in all this time. It gives me more perspective,” she said. 

Her father, who watched the hearing from the audience, said he’s hopeful the sentence will teach his daughter something new that paying a fine wouldn’t accomplish.

"I think any bus driver has some really good stories of people that ignore that stop sign and close calls or maybe even kids getting hit,” Alex Rosenast said.  "We’ve all seen that happen where people don’t see the bus, so maybe she’ll get a real eye-opening discussion about how intense that is for the bus driver.”

Sixteen-year-old Lucia Rosenast didn’t know what to expect when she showed up for her first-ever hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court.

“It was a little daunting. I kind of nervous that I was going to be put on the spot, and then I kind of was worried there would be an audience of people judging me,” she said. 

Lucia Rosenhart, 16, of Seattle (left), sits next to her defensive advisor, Hermela Shiferaw, 16, of Seattle, during a traffic youth court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

With a crowd on the benches behind her, Rosenast took an oath and stated her name. But that was only the “normal" part of the next 20 minutes. 

"What’s your GPA?... Do you have any extra curricular activities?... How long have you had your license?” a panel of judges asked the Seattle Academy student. 

Rosenast was there to take responsibility for the traffic mishap that landed her a $419 ticket in January. By telling her story — that she failed to stop for a school bus when she picked up her 14-year-old sister,  she stood a chance at getting her driving record wiped clean.
 
She’d pay a price for the hefty ticket. But she wouldn’t have to pay the fine.  Her fate depended on other teen drivers — the six jurors — who’ve all been defendants in the same hot seat before. 

RRRRRRR

This isn’t your ordinary court hearing. It’s the Seattle Youth Traffic Court, where Garfield High School students are the judges, prosecutors, attorneys and bailiffs once a month. The defendants are 16 and 17-year-old drivers with first-time traffic violations who admit to the offenses and get a clean slate. 

The jurors, also high school students, deliberate and decide on creative, unconventional sentences that teach teen drivers a lesson and restore peace in the communities where driving mistakes caused damage.

“It’s all about getting what you’ve done and trying to acknowledge the consequences of what could have happened,” said Jennet Mitkie, a 16-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the head judge for Rosenast’s hearing. 

From left to right: Student judges Dahlia Gemmer, 16, Jennet Mitikie, 16, and Corinne Davenport, 17, question a teenage defendant during a youth traffic court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

The Seattle diversion program, which operates under Washington law, started in 2012. It’s one of about 1,400 youth courts around the country where young people are sentenced by their peers.  Seattle University law students manage the cases and offer monthly trainings for the 17 student volunteers, who are often interested in careers in the justice system.

“Traffic courts have a real impact on public safety. You can be very creative with kids really learning from their mistakes and not living with this infraction on their record, which causes insurance rates to go up,” said Margaret Fisher, who co-founded the city's youth traffic court in 2012. “I think it’s very important that kids have this intervention.” 

RRRRR

Teen Drivers Serve Unique Sentences

Every defendant is sentenced to at least one jury duty in a future youth traffic court hearing. The rest of the punishment depends on the facts of each case, and it’s heavily influenced by a teen driver’s demeanor.

“The defendant decides what they are going to get,  as I like to see it,” said Mitke, the 16-year-old student judge. "It’s based on their attitude, their knowledge about what they have done and how they respond to the questions. That’s what helps the jury determine what happens.” 

RRRRRRR

They could be required to complete community service hours, write a letter of apology, write an essay, interview a police officer or fulfill another punishment set by the room full of jurors who deliberate after each defendant takes the stand.

“They can make stuff up if they want. I’ve seen them give meditation to somebody who was speeding because she broke up with her boyfriend,” said Jennifer Bitner, a 24 year-old Seattle University law student who has helped manage the youth court for three years.

After his April hearing, Isaiah Smith, a 17-year-old West Seattle High School student, was sentenced to serve on three youth court juries to clear up a $207 speeding ticket he got in January.

Student jurors also decided he would need to find two newspaper stories about how speeding caused a major accident and write a 150 word reflection about each story.

RRRRRR

“It’s not the same kind of impact they would have if all they did was pay a fine,” said Margaret Fisher, co-founder of the program.

Smith told judges he was speeding because he was running late for school on the first day of winter quarter. During deliberations in his case, jurors acknowledged the punishment the teen already had served when his parents took away his car for three months.

“I think it’s really interesting (being a juror) because you get to weigh both sides of the issue and you get to try and solve the problem,” said Alex Reynolds, a 15-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the presiding juror in Smith’s case. "You’re thinking of what would be the best disposition to give this person? What would be the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen again?" 

RRRRRRRRR

High School Students Learn Justice System

Just as the 16 and 17-year-old defendants in the courtroom learn important lessons about becoming better drivers, the student volunteers are learning, too.

“It’s a benefit to the youth who are volunteering because they get a chance to be part of the legal process. They get a view of the courts and the law, and they themselves are young drivers,” said Fischer.

That’s a big deal because many of the students want to pursue careers in law.  They get community service hours for their participation and face time with with professionals, like two Seattle police officers assigned to the youth court and Karen Donoue, the Seattle Municipal Court’s presiding judge.
 

RRRRRR

“We wanted the whole student (court) model because we want more youth engaged in learning about civic responsibilities,” said Donoue, who co-founded the youth court with Fisher. "It’s more fun to have the kids do it. It’s also a much more meaningful experience for kids to have kids make the rulings… and hear the evidence.”

In their monthly trainings with Seattle University law students, the Garfield High School volunteers review their upcoming cases and dissect the ones that came the month before.

Corinne Davenport is a 17-year-old aspiring lawyer who was afraid to talk in front of strangers before she joined the youth court three years ago. Now, she sits on the judge’s bench and wears a robe.  

RRRRRRRR

“I definitely am better at being professional around people that I don’t know. I’ve learned more how to be a professional person in professional settings —  in a formal setting, like a court room. I’ve learned how to follow court decorum and also have a good time,” she said.

For Rosenast, her time as a defendant was a window into the legal process that she had never seen before.

"I kind of learned just like the formation of the court and who does what. I never really knew like the positions of the court and what their actual responsibility was. I just knew a judge was top gun and then there was the defendant,” she said.

'I Didn't Have Perspective On The Consequences' 

Rosenast described the mood in the courtroom as “tense” while she waited for jurors to return with her fate.

“Everyone was very silent,” Rosenast said. “Everyone was apprehensive.”

RRRRRR

About ten minutes later, the jurors returned and read her sentence aloud.

They  decided Rosenast should interview a school bus driver about the safety of driving in school zones and write a two page, single-spaced paper about what she learned. She must also serve on four youth court juries in order to clear her record.

“(Before this experience,) I didn’t have perspective on the consequences of getting a ticket and what goes into getting that off your record,” Lucia said. “Now I know how much it takes going to all these court cases and putting in all this time. It gives me more perspective,” she said. 

Her father, who watched the hearing from the audience, said he’s hopeful the sentence will teach his daughter something new that paying a fine wouldn’t accomplish.

"I think any bus driver has some really good stories of people that ignore that stop sign and close calls or maybe even kids getting hit,” Alex Rosenast said.  "We’ve all seen that happen where people don’t see the bus, so maybe she’ll get a real eye-opening discussion about how intense that is for the bus driver.”

Sixteen-year-old Lucia Rosenast didn’t know what to expect when she showed up for her first-ever hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court.

“It was a little daunting. I kind of nervous that I was going to be put on the spot, and then I kind of was worried there would be an audience of people judging me,” she said. 

Lucia Rosenhart, 16, of Seattle (left), sits next to her defensive advisor, Hermela Shiferaw, 16, of Seattle, during a traffic youth court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

With a crowd on the benches behind her, Rosenast took an oath and stated her name. But that was only the “normal" part of the next 20 minutes. 

"What’s your GPA?... Do you have any extra curricular activities?... How long have you had your license?” a panel of judges asked the Seattle Academy student. 

Rosenast was there to take responsibility for the traffic mishap that landed her a $419 ticket in January. By telling her story — that she failed to stop for a school bus when she picked up her 14-year-old sister,  she stood a chance at getting her driving record wiped clean.
 
She’d pay a price for the hefty ticket. But she wouldn’t have to pay the fine.  Her fate depended on other teen drivers — the six jurors — who’ve all been defendants in the same hot seat before. 

RRRRRRR

This isn’t your ordinary court hearing. It’s the Seattle Youth Traffic Court, where Garfield High School students are the judges, prosecutors, attorneys and bailiffs once a month. The defendants are 16 and 17-year-old drivers with first-time traffic violations who admit to the offenses and get a clean slate. 

The jurors, also high school students, deliberate and decide on creative, unconventional sentences that teach teen drivers a lesson and restore peace in the communities where driving mistakes caused damage.

“It’s all about getting what you’ve done and trying to acknowledge the consequences of what could have happened,” said Jennet Mitkie, a 16-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the head judge for Rosenast’s hearing. 

From left to right: Student judges Dahlia Gemmer, 16, Jennet Mitikie, 16, and Corinne Davenport, 17, question a teenage defendant during a youth traffic court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

The Seattle diversion program, which operates under Washington law, started in 2012. It’s one of about 1,400 youth courts around the country where young people are sentenced by their peers.  Seattle University law students manage the cases and offer monthly trainings for the 17 student volunteers, who are often interested in careers in the justice system.

“Traffic courts have a real impact on public safety. You can be very creative with kids really learning from their mistakes and not living with this infraction on their record, which causes insurance rates to go up,” said Margaret Fisher, who co-founded the city's youth traffic court in 2012. “I think it’s very important that kids have this intervention.” 

RRRRR

Teen Drivers Serve Unique Sentences

Every defendant is sentenced to at least one jury duty in a future youth traffic court hearing. The rest of the punishment depends on the facts of each case, and it’s heavily influenced by a teen driver’s demeanor.

“The defendant decides what they are going to get,  as I like to see it,” said Mitke, the 16-year-old student judge. "It’s based on their attitude, their knowledge about what they have done and how they respond to the questions. That’s what helps the jury determine what happens.” 

RRRRRRR

They could be required to complete community service hours, write a letter of apology, write an essay, interview a police officer or fulfill another punishment set by the room full of jurors who deliberate after each defendant takes the stand.

“They can make stuff up if they want. I’ve seen them give meditation to somebody who was speeding because she broke up with her boyfriend,” said Jennifer Bitner, a 24 year-old Seattle University law student who has helped manage the youth court for three years.

After his April hearing, Isaiah Smith, a 17-year-old West Seattle High School student, was sentenced to serve on three youth court juries to clear up a $207 speeding ticket he got in January.

Student jurors also decided he would need to find two newspaper stories about how speeding caused a major accident and write a 150 word reflection about each story.

RRRRRR

“It’s not the same kind of impact they would have if all they did was pay a fine,” said Margaret Fisher, co-founder of the program.

Smith told judges he was speeding because he was running late for school on the first day of winter quarter. During deliberations in his case, jurors acknowledged the punishment the teen already had served when his parents took away his car for three months.

“I think it’s really interesting (being a juror) because you get to weigh both sides of the issue and you get to try and solve the problem,” said Alex Reynolds, a 15-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the presiding juror in Smith’s case. "You’re thinking of what would be the best disposition to give this person? What would be the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen again?" 

RRRRRRRRR

High School Students Learn Justice System

Just as the 16 and 17-year-old defendants in the courtroom learn important lessons about becoming better drivers, the student volunteers are learning, too.

“It’s a benefit to the youth who are volunteering because they get a chance to be part of the legal process. They get a view of the courts and the law, and they themselves are young drivers,” said Fischer.

That’s a big deal because many of the students want to pursue careers in law.  They get community service hours for their participation and face time with with professionals, like two Seattle police officers assigned to the youth court and Karen Donoue, the Seattle Municipal Court’s presiding judge.
 

RRRRRR

“We wanted the whole student (court) model because we want more youth engaged in learning about civic responsibilities,” said Donoue, who co-founded the youth court with Fisher. "It’s more fun to have the kids do it. It’s also a much more meaningful experience for kids to have kids make the rulings… and hear the evidence.”

In their monthly trainings with Seattle University law students, the Garfield High School volunteers review their upcoming cases and dissect the ones that came the month before.

Corinne Davenport is a 17-year-old aspiring lawyer who was afraid to talk in front of strangers before she joined the youth court three years ago. Now, she sits on the judge’s bench and wears a robe.  

RRRRRRRR

“I definitely am better at being professional around people that I don’t know. I’ve learned more how to be a professional person in professional settings —  in a formal setting, like a court room. I’ve learned how to follow court decorum and also have a good time,” she said.

For Rosenast, her time as a defendant was a window into the legal process that she had never seen before.

"I kind of learned just like the formation of the court and who does what. I never really knew like the positions of the court and what their actual responsibility was. I just knew a judge was top gun and then there was the defendant,” she said.

'I Didn't Have Perspective On The Consequences' 

Rosenast described the mood in the courtroom as “tense” while she waited for jurors to return with her fate.

“Everyone was very silent,” Rosenast said. “Everyone was apprehensive.”

RRRRRR

About ten minutes later, the jurors returned and read her sentence aloud.

They  decided Rosenast should interview a school bus driver about the safety of driving in school zones and write a two page, single-spaced paper about what she learned. She must also serve on four youth court juries in order to clear her record.

“(Before this experience,) I didn’t have perspective on the consequences of getting a ticket and what goes into getting that off your record,” Lucia said. “Now I know how much it takes going to all these court cases and putting in all this time. It gives me more perspective,” she said. 

Her father, who watched the hearing from the audience, said he’s hopeful the sentence will teach his daughter something new that paying a fine wouldn’t accomplish.

"I think any bus driver has some really good stories of people that ignore that stop sign and close calls or maybe even kids getting hit,” Alex Rosenast said.  "We’ve all seen that happen where people don’t see the bus, so maybe she’ll get a real eye-opening discussion about how intense that is for the bus driver.”

Sixteen-year-old Lucia Rosenast didn’t know what to expect when she showed up for her first-ever hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court.

“It was a little daunting. I kind of nervous that I was going to be put on the spot, and then I kind of was worried there would be an audience of people judging me,” she said. 

Lucia Rosenhart, 16, of Seattle (left), sits next to her defensive advisor, Hermela Shiferaw, 16, of Seattle, during a traffic youth court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

With a crowd on the benches behind her, Rosenast took an oath and stated her name. But that was only the “normal" part of the next 20 minutes. 

"What’s your GPA?... Do you have any extra curricular activities?... How long have you had your license?” a panel of judges asked the Seattle Academy student. 

Rosenast was there to take responsibility for the traffic mishap that landed her a $419 ticket in January. By telling her story — that she failed to stop for a school bus when she picked up her 14-year-old sister,  she stood a chance at getting her driving record wiped clean.
 
She’d pay a price for the hefty ticket. But she wouldn’t have to pay the fine.  Her fate depended on other teen drivers — the six jurors — who’ve all been defendants in the same hot seat before. 

RRRRRRR

This isn’t your ordinary court hearing. It’s the Seattle Youth Traffic Court, where Garfield High School students are the judges, prosecutors, attorneys and bailiffs once a month. The defendants are 16 and 17-year-old drivers with first-time traffic violations who admit to the offenses and get a clean slate. 

The jurors, also high school students, deliberate and decide on creative, unconventional sentences that teach teen drivers a lesson and restore peace in the communities where driving mistakes caused damage.

“It’s all about getting what you’ve done and trying to acknowledge the consequences of what could have happened,” said Jennet Mitkie, a 16-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the head judge for Rosenast’s hearing. 

From left to right: Student judges Dahlia Gemmer, 16, Jennet Mitikie, 16, and Corinne Davenport, 17, question a teenage defendant during a youth traffic court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

The Seattle diversion program, which operates under Washington law, started in 2012. It’s one of about 1,400 youth courts around the country where young people are sentenced by their peers.  Seattle University law students manage the cases and offer monthly trainings for the 17 student volunteers, who are often interested in careers in the justice system.

“Traffic courts have a real impact on public safety. You can be very creative with kids really learning from their mistakes and not living with this infraction on their record, which causes insurance rates to go up,” said Margaret Fisher, who co-founded the city's youth traffic court in 2012. “I think it’s very important that kids have this intervention.” 

RRRRR

Teen Drivers Serve Unique Sentences

Every defendant is sentenced to at least one jury duty in a future youth traffic court hearing. The rest of the punishment depends on the facts of each case, and it’s heavily influenced by a teen driver’s demeanor.

“The defendant decides what they are going to get,  as I like to see it,” said Mitke, the 16-year-old student judge. "It’s based on their attitude, their knowledge about what they have done and how they respond to the questions. That’s what helps the jury determine what happens.” 

RRRRRRR

They could be required to complete community service hours, write a letter of apology, write an essay, interview a police officer or fulfill another punishment set by the room full of jurors who deliberate after each defendant takes the stand.

“They can make stuff up if they want. I’ve seen them give meditation to somebody who was speeding because she broke up with her boyfriend,” said Jennifer Bitner, a 24 year-old Seattle University law student who has helped manage the youth court for three years.

After his April hearing, Isaiah Smith, a 17-year-old West Seattle High School student, was sentenced to serve on three youth court juries to clear up a $207 speeding ticket he got in January.

Student jurors also decided he would need to find two newspaper stories about how speeding caused a major accident and write a 150 word reflection about each story.

RRRRRR

“It’s not the same kind of impact they would have if all they did was pay a fine,” said Margaret Fisher, co-founder of the program.

Smith told judges he was speeding because he was running late for school on the first day of winter quarter. During deliberations in his case, jurors acknowledged the punishment the teen already had served when his parents took away his car for three months.

“I think it’s really interesting (being a juror) because you get to weigh both sides of the issue and you get to try and solve the problem,” said Alex Reynolds, a 15-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the presiding juror in Smith’s case. "You’re thinking of what would be the best disposition to give this person? What would be the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen again?" 

RRRRRRRRR

High School Students Learn Justice System

Just as the 16 and 17-year-old defendants in the courtroom learn important lessons about becoming better drivers, the student volunteers are learning, too.

“It’s a benefit to the youth who are volunteering because they get a chance to be part of the legal process. They get a view of the courts and the law, and they themselves are young drivers,” said Fischer.

That’s a big deal because many of the students want to pursue careers in law.  They get community service hours for their participation and face time with with professionals, like two Seattle police officers assigned to the youth court and Karen Donoue, the Seattle Municipal Court’s presiding judge.
 

RRRRRR

“We wanted the whole student (court) model because we want more youth engaged in learning about civic responsibilities,” said Donoue, who co-founded the youth court with Fisher. "It’s more fun to have the kids do it. It’s also a much more meaningful experience for kids to have kids make the rulings… and hear the evidence.”

In their monthly trainings with Seattle University law students, the Garfield High School volunteers review their upcoming cases and dissect the ones that came the month before.

Corinne Davenport is a 17-year-old aspiring lawyer who was afraid to talk in front of strangers before she joined the youth court three years ago. Now, she sits on the judge’s bench and wears a robe.  

RRRRRRRR

“I definitely am better at being professional around people that I don’t know. I’ve learned more how to be a professional person in professional settings —  in a formal setting, like a court room. I’ve learned how to follow court decorum and also have a good time,” she said.

For Rosenast, her time as a defendant was a window into the legal process that she had never seen before.

"I kind of learned just like the formation of the court and who does what. I never really knew like the positions of the court and what their actual responsibility was. I just knew a judge was top gun and then there was the defendant,” she said.

'I Didn't Have Perspective On The Consequences' 

Rosenast described the mood in the courtroom as “tense” while she waited for jurors to return with her fate.

“Everyone was very silent,” Rosenast said. “Everyone was apprehensive.”

RRRRRR

About ten minutes later, the jurors returned and read her sentence aloud.

They  decided Rosenast should interview a school bus driver about the safety of driving in school zones and write a two page, single-spaced paper about what she learned. She must also serve on four youth court juries in order to clear her record.

“(Before this experience,) I didn’t have perspective on the consequences of getting a ticket and what goes into getting that off your record,” Lucia said. “Now I know how much it takes going to all these court cases and putting in all this time. It gives me more perspective,” she said. 

Her father, who watched the hearing from the audience, said he’s hopeful the sentence will teach his daughter something new that paying a fine wouldn’t accomplish.

"I think any bus driver has some really good stories of people that ignore that stop sign and close calls or maybe even kids getting hit,” Alex Rosenast said.  "We’ve all seen that happen where people don’t see the bus, so maybe she’ll get a real eye-opening discussion about how intense that is for the bus driver.”

Sixteen-year-old Lucia Rosenast didn’t know what to expect when she showed up for her first-ever hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court.

“It was a little daunting. I kind of nervous that I was going to be put on the spot, and then I kind of was worried there would be an audience of people judging me,” she said. 

Lucia Rosenhart, 16, of Seattle (left), sits next to her defensive advisor, Hermela Shiferaw, 16, of Seattle, during a traffic youth court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

With a crowd on the benches behind her, Rosenast took an oath and stated her name. But that was only the “normal" part of the next 20 minutes. 

"What’s your GPA?... Do you have any extra curricular activities?... How long have you had your license?” a panel of judges asked the Seattle Academy student. 

Rosenast was there to take responsibility for the traffic mishap that landed her a $419 ticket in January. By telling her story — that she failed to stop for a school bus when she picked up her 14-year-old sister,  she stood a chance at getting her driving record wiped clean.
 
She’d pay a price for the hefty ticket. But she wouldn’t have to pay the fine.  Her fate depended on other teen drivers — the six jurors — who’ve all been defendants in the same hot seat before. 

RRRRRRR

This isn’t your ordinary court hearing. It’s the Seattle Youth Traffic Court, where Garfield High School students are the judges, prosecutors, attorneys and bailiffs once a month. The defendants are 16 and 17-year-old drivers with first-time traffic violations who admit to the offenses and get a clean slate. 

The jurors, also high school students, deliberate and decide on creative, unconventional sentences that teach teen drivers a lesson and restore peace in the communities where driving mistakes caused damage.

“It’s all about getting what you’ve done and trying to acknowledge the consequences of what could have happened,” said Jennet Mitkie, a 16-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the head judge for Rosenast’s hearing. 

From left to right: Student judges Dahlia Gemmer, 16, Jennet Mitikie, 16, and Corinne Davenport, 17, question a teenage defendant during a youth traffic court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

The Seattle diversion program, which operates under Washington law, started in 2012. It’s one of about 1,400 youth courts around the country where young people are sentenced by their peers.  Seattle University law students manage the cases and offer monthly trainings for the 17 student volunteers, who are often interested in careers in the justice system.

“Traffic courts have a real impact on public safety. You can be very creative with kids really learning from their mistakes and not living with this infraction on their record, which causes insurance rates to go up,” said Margaret Fisher, who co-founded the city's youth traffic court in 2012. “I think it’s very important that kids have this intervention.” 

RRRRR

Teen Drivers Serve Unique Sentences

Every defendant is sentenced to at least one jury duty in a future youth traffic court hearing. The rest of the punishment depends on the facts of each case, and it’s heavily influenced by a teen driver’s demeanor.

“The defendant decides what they are going to get,  as I like to see it,” said Mitke, the 16-year-old student judge. "It’s based on their attitude, their knowledge about what they have done and how they respond to the questions. That’s what helps the jury determine what happens.” 

RRRRRRR

They could be required to complete community service hours, write a letter of apology, write an essay, interview a police officer or fulfill another punishment set by the room full of jurors who deliberate after each defendant takes the stand.

“They can make stuff up if they want. I’ve seen them give meditation to somebody who was speeding because she broke up with her boyfriend,” said Jennifer Bitner, a 24 year-old Seattle University law student who has helped manage the youth court for three years.

After his April hearing, Isaiah Smith, a 17-year-old West Seattle High School student, was sentenced to serve on three youth court juries to clear up a $207 speeding ticket he got in January.

Student jurors also decided he would need to find two newspaper stories about how speeding caused a major accident and write a 150 word reflection about each story.

RRRRRR

“It’s not the same kind of impact they would have if all they did was pay a fine,” said Margaret Fisher, co-founder of the program.

Smith told judges he was speeding because he was running late for school on the first day of winter quarter. During deliberations in his case, jurors acknowledged the punishment the teen already had served when his parents took away his car for three months.

“I think it’s really interesting (being a juror) because you get to weigh both sides of the issue and you get to try and solve the problem,” said Alex Reynolds, a 15-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the presiding juror in Smith’s case. "You’re thinking of what would be the best disposition to give this person? What would be the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen again?" 

RRRRRRRRR

High School Students Learn Justice System

Just as the 16 and 17-year-old defendants in the courtroom learn important lessons about becoming better drivers, the student volunteers are learning, too.

“It’s a benefit to the youth who are volunteering because they get a chance to be part of the legal process. They get a view of the courts and the law, and they themselves are young drivers,” said Fischer.

That’s a big deal because many of the students want to pursue careers in law.  They get community service hours for their participation and face time with with professionals, like two Seattle police officers assigned to the youth court and Karen Donoue, the Seattle Municipal Court’s presiding judge.
 

RRRRRR

“We wanted the whole student (court) model because we want more youth engaged in learning about civic responsibilities,” said Donoue, who co-founded the youth court with Fisher. "It’s more fun to have the kids do it. It’s also a much more meaningful experience for kids to have kids make the rulings… and hear the evidence.”

In their monthly trainings with Seattle University law students, the Garfield High School volunteers review their upcoming cases and dissect the ones that came the month before.

Corinne Davenport is a 17-year-old aspiring lawyer who was afraid to talk in front of strangers before she joined the youth court three years ago. Now, she sits on the judge’s bench and wears a robe.  

RRRRRRRR

“I definitely am better at being professional around people that I don’t know. I’ve learned more how to be a professional person in professional settings —  in a formal setting, like a court room. I’ve learned how to follow court decorum and also have a good time,” she said.

For Rosenast, her time as a defendant was a window into the legal process that she had never seen before.

"I kind of learned just like the formation of the court and who does what. I never really knew like the positions of the court and what their actual responsibility was. I just knew a judge was top gun and then there was the defendant,” she said.

'I Didn't Have Perspective On The Consequences' 

Rosenast described the mood in the courtroom as “tense” while she waited for jurors to return with her fate.

“Everyone was very silent,” Rosenast said. “Everyone was apprehensive.”

RRRRRR

About ten minutes later, the jurors returned and read her sentence aloud.

They  decided Rosenast should interview a school bus driver about the safety of driving in school zones and write a two page, single-spaced paper about what she learned. She must also serve on four youth court juries in order to clear her record.

“(Before this experience,) I didn’t have perspective on the consequences of getting a ticket and what goes into getting that off your record,” Lucia said. “Now I know how much it takes going to all these court cases and putting in all this time. It gives me more perspective,” she said. 

Her father, who watched the hearing from the audience, said he’s hopeful the sentence will teach his daughter something new that paying a fine wouldn’t accomplish.

"I think any bus driver has some really good stories of people that ignore that stop sign and close calls or maybe even kids getting hit,” Alex Rosenast said.  "We’ve all seen that happen where people don’t see the bus, so maybe she’ll get a real eye-opening discussion about how intense that is for the bus driver.”

Sixteen-year-old Lucia Rosenast didn’t know what to expect when she showed up for her first-ever hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court.

“It was a little daunting. I kind of nervous that I was going to be put on the spot, and then I kind of was worried there would be an audience of people judging me,” she said. 

Lucia Rosenhart, 16, of Seattle (left), sits next to her defensive advisor, Hermela Shiferaw, 16, of Seattle, during a traffic youth court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

With a crowd on the benches behind her, Rosenast took an oath and stated her name. But that was only the “normal" part of the next 20 minutes. 

"What’s your GPA?... Do you have any extra curricular activities?... How long have you had your license?” a panel of judges asked the Seattle Academy student. 

Rosenast was there to take responsibility for the traffic mishap that landed her a $419 ticket in January. By telling her story — that she failed to stop for a school bus when she picked up her 14-year-old sister,  she stood a chance at getting her driving record wiped clean.
 
She’d pay a price for the hefty ticket. But she wouldn’t have to pay the fine.  Her fate depended on other teen drivers — the six jurors — who’ve all been defendants in the same hot seat before. 

RRRRRRR

This isn’t your ordinary court hearing. It’s the Seattle Youth Traffic Court, where Garfield High School students are the judges, prosecutors, attorneys and bailiffs once a month. The defendants are 16 and 17-year-old drivers with first-time traffic violations who admit to the offenses and get a clean slate. 

The jurors, also high school students, deliberate and decide on creative, unconventional sentences that teach teen drivers a lesson and restore peace in the communities where driving mistakes caused damage.

“It’s all about getting what you’ve done and trying to acknowledge the consequences of what could have happened,” said Jennet Mitkie, a 16-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the head judge for Rosenast’s hearing. 

From left to right: Student judges Dahlia Gemmer, 16, Jennet Mitikie, 16, and Corinne Davenport, 17, question a teenage defendant during a youth traffic court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

The Seattle diversion program, which operates under Washington law, started in 2012. It’s one of about 1,400 youth courts around the country where young people are sentenced by their peers.  Seattle University law students manage the cases and offer monthly trainings for the 17 student volunteers, who are often interested in careers in the justice system.

“Traffic courts have a real impact on public safety. You can be very creative with kids really learning from their mistakes and not living with this infraction on their record, which causes insurance rates to go up,” said Margaret Fisher, who co-founded the city's youth traffic court in 2012. “I think it’s very important that kids have this intervention.” 

RRRRR

Teen Drivers Serve Unique Sentences

Every defendant is sentenced to at least one jury duty in a future youth traffic court hearing. The rest of the punishment depends on the facts of each case, and it’s heavily influenced by a teen driver’s demeanor.

“The defendant decides what they are going to get,  as I like to see it,” said Mitke, the 16-year-old student judge. "It’s based on their attitude, their knowledge about what they have done and how they respond to the questions. That’s what helps the jury determine what happens.” 

RRRRRRR

They could be required to complete community service hours, write a letter of apology, write an essay, interview a police officer or fulfill another punishment set by the room full of jurors who deliberate after each defendant takes the stand.

“They can make stuff up if they want. I’ve seen them give meditation to somebody who was speeding because she broke up with her boyfriend,” said Jennifer Bitner, a 24 year-old Seattle University law student who has helped manage the youth court for three years.

After his April hearing, Isaiah Smith, a 17-year-old West Seattle High School student, was sentenced to serve on three youth court juries to clear up a $207 speeding ticket he got in January.

Student jurors also decided he would need to find two newspaper stories about how speeding caused a major accident and write a 150 word reflection about each story.

RRRRRR

“It’s not the same kind of impact they would have if all they did was pay a fine,” said Margaret Fisher, co-founder of the program.

Smith told judges he was speeding because he was running late for school on the first day of winter quarter. During deliberations in his case, jurors acknowledged the punishment the teen already had served when his parents took away his car for three months.

“I think it’s really interesting (being a juror) because you get to weigh both sides of the issue and you get to try and solve the problem,” said Alex Reynolds, a 15-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the presiding juror in Smith’s case. "You’re thinking of what would be the best disposition to give this person? What would be the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen again?" 

RRRRRRRRR

High School Students Learn Justice System

Just as the 16 and 17-year-old defendants in the courtroom learn important lessons about becoming better drivers, the student volunteers are learning, too.

“It’s a benefit to the youth who are volunteering because they get a chance to be part of the legal process. They get a view of the courts and the law, and they themselves are young drivers,” said Fischer.

That’s a big deal because many of the students want to pursue careers in law.  They get community service hours for their participation and face time with with professionals, like two Seattle police officers assigned to the youth court and Karen Donoue, the Seattle Municipal Court’s presiding judge.
 

RRRRRR

“We wanted the whole student (court) model because we want more youth engaged in learning about civic responsibilities,” said Donoue, who co-founded the youth court with Fisher. "It’s more fun to have the kids do it. It’s also a much more meaningful experience for kids to have kids make the rulings… and hear the evidence.”

In their monthly trainings with Seattle University law students, the Garfield High School volunteers review their upcoming cases and dissect the ones that came the month before.

Corinne Davenport is a 17-year-old aspiring lawyer who was afraid to talk in front of strangers before she joined the youth court three years ago. Now, she sits on the judge’s bench and wears a robe.  

RRRRRRRR

“I definitely am better at being professional around people that I don’t know. I’ve learned more how to be a professional person in professional settings —  in a formal setting, like a court room. I’ve learned how to follow court decorum and also have a good time,” she said.

For Rosenast, her time as a defendant was a window into the legal process that she had never seen before.

"I kind of learned just like the formation of the court and who does what. I never really knew like the positions of the court and what their actual responsibility was. I just knew a judge was top gun and then there was the defendant,” she said.

'I Didn't Have Perspective On The Consequences' 

Rosenast described the mood in the courtroom as “tense” while she waited for jurors to return with her fate.

“Everyone was very silent,” Rosenast said. “Everyone was apprehensive.”

RRRRRR

About ten minutes later, the jurors returned and read her sentence aloud.

They  decided Rosenast should interview a school bus driver about the safety of driving in school zones and write a two page, single-spaced paper about what she learned. She must also serve on four youth court juries in order to clear her record.

“(Before this experience,) I didn’t have perspective on the consequences of getting a ticket and what goes into getting that off your record,” Lucia said. “Now I know how much it takes going to all these court cases and putting in all this time. It gives me more perspective,” she said. 

Her father, who watched the hearing from the audience, said he’s hopeful the sentence will teach his daughter something new that paying a fine wouldn’t accomplish.

"I think any bus driver has some really good stories of people that ignore that stop sign and close calls or maybe even kids getting hit,” Alex Rosenast said.  "We’ve all seen that happen where people don’t see the bus, so maybe she’ll get a real eye-opening discussion about how intense that is for the bus driver.”

Sixteen-year-old Lucia Rosenast didn’t know what to expect when she showed up for her first-ever hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court.

“It was a little daunting. I kind of nervous that I was going to be put on the spot, and then I kind of was worried there would be an audience of people judging me,” she said. 

Lucia Rosenhart, 16, of Seattle (left), sits next to her defensive advisor, Hermela Shiferaw, 16, of Seattle, during a traffic youth court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

With a crowd on the benches behind her, Rosenast took an oath and stated her name. But that was only the “normal" part of the next 20 minutes. 

"What’s your GPA?... Do you have any extra curricular activities?... How long have you had your license?” a panel of judges asked the Seattle Academy student. 

Rosenast was there to take responsibility for the traffic mishap that landed her a $419 ticket in January. By telling her story — that she failed to stop for a school bus when she picked up her 14-year-old sister,  she stood a chance at getting her driving record wiped clean.
 
She’d pay a price for the hefty ticket. But she wouldn’t have to pay the fine.  Her fate depended on other teen drivers — the six jurors — who’ve all been defendants in the same hot seat before. 

RRRRRRR

This isn’t your ordinary court hearing. It’s the Seattle Youth Traffic Court, where Garfield High School students are the judges, prosecutors, attorneys and bailiffs once a month. The defendants are 16 and 17-year-old drivers with first-time traffic violations who admit to the offenses and get a clean slate. 

The jurors, also high school students, deliberate and decide on creative, unconventional sentences that teach teen drivers a lesson and restore peace in the communities where driving mistakes caused damage.

“It’s all about getting what you’ve done and trying to acknowledge the consequences of what could have happened,” said Jennet Mitkie, a 16-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the head judge for Rosenast’s hearing. 

From left to right: Student judges Dahlia Gemmer, 16, Jennet Mitikie, 16, and Corinne Davenport, 17, question a teenage defendant during a youth traffic court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

The Seattle diversion program, which operates under Washington law, started in 2012. It’s one of about 1,400 youth courts around the country where young people are sentenced by their peers.  Seattle University law students manage the cases and offer monthly trainings for the 17 student volunteers, who are often interested in careers in the justice system.

“Traffic courts have a real impact on public safety. You can be very creative with kids really learning from their mistakes and not living with this infraction on their record, which causes insurance rates to go up,” said Margaret Fisher, who co-founded the city's youth traffic court in 2012. “I think it’s very important that kids have this intervention.” 

RRRRR

Teen Drivers Serve Unique Sentences

Every defendant is sentenced to at least one jury duty in a future youth traffic court hearing. The rest of the punishment depends on the facts of each case, and it’s heavily influenced by a teen driver’s demeanor.

“The defendant decides what they are going to get,  as I like to see it,” said Mitke, the 16-year-old student judge. "It’s based on their attitude, their knowledge about what they have done and how they respond to the questions. That’s what helps the jury determine what happens.” 

RRRRRRR

They could be required to complete community service hours, write a letter of apology, write an essay, interview a police officer or fulfill another punishment set by the room full of jurors who deliberate after each defendant takes the stand.

“They can make stuff up if they want. I’ve seen them give meditation to somebody who was speeding because she broke up with her boyfriend,” said Jennifer Bitner, a 24 year-old Seattle University law student who has helped manage the youth court for three years.

After his April hearing, Isaiah Smith, a 17-year-old West Seattle High School student, was sentenced to serve on three youth court juries to clear up a $207 speeding ticket he got in January.

Student jurors also decided he would need to find two newspaper stories about how speeding caused a major accident and write a 150 word reflection about each story.

RRRRRR

“It’s not the same kind of impact they would have if all they did was pay a fine,” said Margaret Fisher, co-founder of the program.

Smith told judges he was speeding because he was running late for school on the first day of winter quarter. During deliberations in his case, jurors acknowledged the punishment the teen already had served when his parents took away his car for three months.

“I think it’s really interesting (being a juror) because you get to weigh both sides of the issue and you get to try and solve the problem,” said Alex Reynolds, a 15-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the presiding juror in Smith’s case. "You’re thinking of what would be the best disposition to give this person? What would be the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen again?" 

RRRRRRRRR

High School Students Learn Justice System

Just as the 16 and 17-year-old defendants in the courtroom learn important lessons about becoming better drivers, the student volunteers are learning, too.

“It’s a benefit to the youth who are volunteering because they get a chance to be part of the legal process. They get a view of the courts and the law, and they themselves are young drivers,” said Fischer.

That’s a big deal because many of the students want to pursue careers in law.  They get community service hours for their participation and face time with with professionals, like two Seattle police officers assigned to the youth court and Karen Donoue, the Seattle Municipal Court’s presiding judge.
 

RRRRRR

“We wanted the whole student (court) model because we want more youth engaged in learning about civic responsibilities,” said Donoue, who co-founded the youth court with Fisher. "It’s more fun to have the kids do it. It’s also a much more meaningful experience for kids to have kids make the rulings… and hear the evidence.”

In their monthly trainings with Seattle University law students, the Garfield High School volunteers review their upcoming cases and dissect the ones that came the month before.

Corinne Davenport is a 17-year-old aspiring lawyer who was afraid to talk in front of strangers before she joined the youth court three years ago. Now, she sits on the judge’s bench and wears a robe.  

RRRRRRRR

“I definitely am better at being professional around people that I don’t know. I’ve learned more how to be a professional person in professional settings —  in a formal setting, like a court room. I’ve learned how to follow court decorum and also have a good time,” she said.

For Rosenast, her time as a defendant was a window into the legal process that she had never seen before.

"I kind of learned just like the formation of the court and who does what. I never really knew like the positions of the court and what their actual responsibility was. I just knew a judge was top gun and then there was the defendant,” she said.

'I Didn't Have Perspective On The Consequences' 

Rosenast described the mood in the courtroom as “tense” while she waited for jurors to return with her fate.

“Everyone was very silent,” Rosenast said. “Everyone was apprehensive.”

RRRRRR

About ten minutes later, the jurors returned and read her sentence aloud.

They  decided Rosenast should interview a school bus driver about the safety of driving in school zones and write a two page, single-spaced paper about what she learned. She must also serve on four youth court juries in order to clear her record.

“(Before this experience,) I didn’t have perspective on the consequences of getting a ticket and what goes into getting that off your record,” Lucia said. “Now I know how much it takes going to all these court cases and putting in all this time. It gives me more perspective,” she said. 

Her father, who watched the hearing from the audience, said he’s hopeful the sentence will teach his daughter something new that paying a fine wouldn’t accomplish.

"I think any bus driver has some really good stories of people that ignore that stop sign and close calls or maybe even kids getting hit,” Alex Rosenast said.  "We’ve all seen that happen where people don’t see the bus, so maybe she’ll get a real eye-opening discussion about how intense that is for the bus driver.”

Sixteen-year-old Lucia Rosenast didn’t know what to expect when she showed up for her first-ever hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court.

“It was a little daunting. I kind of nervous that I was going to be put on the spot, and then I kind of was worried there would be an audience of people judging me,” she said. 

Lucia Rosenhart, 16, of Seattle (left), sits next to her defensive advisor, Hermela Shiferaw, 16, of Seattle, during a traffic youth court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

With a crowd on the benches behind her, Rosenast took an oath and stated her name. But that was only the “normal" part of the next 20 minutes. 

"What’s your GPA?... Do you have any extra curricular activities?... How long have you had your license?” a panel of judges asked the Seattle Academy student. 

Rosenast was there to take responsibility for the traffic mishap that landed her a $419 ticket in January. By telling her story — that she failed to stop for a school bus when she picked up her 14-year-old sister,  she stood a chance at getting her driving record wiped clean.
 
She’d pay a price for the hefty ticket. But she wouldn’t have to pay the fine.  Her fate depended on other teen drivers — the six jurors — who’ve all been defendants in the same hot seat before. 

RRRRRRR

This isn’t your ordinary court hearing. It’s the Seattle Youth Traffic Court, where Garfield High School students are the judges, prosecutors, attorneys and bailiffs once a month. The defendants are 16 and 17-year-old drivers with first-time traffic violations who admit to the offenses and get a clean slate. 

The jurors, also high school students, deliberate and decide on creative, unconventional sentences that teach teen drivers a lesson and restore peace in the communities where driving mistakes caused damage.

“It’s all about getting what you’ve done and trying to acknowledge the consequences of what could have happened,” said Jennet Mitkie, a 16-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the head judge for Rosenast’s hearing. 

From left to right: Student judges Dahlia Gemmer, 16, Jennet Mitikie, 16, and Corinne Davenport, 17, question a teenage defendant during a youth traffic court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

The Seattle diversion program, which operates under Washington law, started in 2012. It’s one of about 1,400 youth courts around the country where young people are sentenced by their peers.  Seattle University law students manage the cases and offer monthly trainings for the 17 student volunteers, who are often interested in careers in the justice system.

“Traffic courts have a real impact on public safety. You can be very creative with kids really learning from their mistakes and not living with this infraction on their record, which causes insurance rates to go up,” said Margaret Fisher, who co-founded the city's youth traffic court in 2012. “I think it’s very important that kids have this intervention.” 

RRRRR

Teen Drivers Serve Unique Sentences

Every defendant is sentenced to at least one jury duty in a future youth traffic court hearing. The rest of the punishment depends on the facts of each case, and it’s heavily influenced by a teen driver’s demeanor.

“The defendant decides what they are going to get,  as I like to see it,” said Mitke, the 16-year-old student judge. "It’s based on their attitude, their knowledge about what they have done and how they respond to the questions. That’s what helps the jury determine what happens.” 

RRRRRRR

They could be required to complete community service hours, write a letter of apology, write an essay, interview a police officer or fulfill another punishment set by the room full of jurors who deliberate after each defendant takes the stand.

“They can make stuff up if they want. I’ve seen them give meditation to somebody who was speeding because she broke up with her boyfriend,” said Jennifer Bitner, a 24 year-old Seattle University law student who has helped manage the youth court for three years.

After his April hearing, Isaiah Smith, a 17-year-old West Seattle High School student, was sentenced to serve on three youth court juries to clear up a $207 speeding ticket he got in January.

Student jurors also decided he would need to find two newspaper stories about how speeding caused a major accident and write a 150 word reflection about each story.

RRRRRR

“It’s not the same kind of impact they would have if all they did was pay a fine,” said Margaret Fisher, co-founder of the program.

Smith told judges he was speeding because he was running late for school on the first day of winter quarter. During deliberations in his case, jurors acknowledged the punishment the teen already had served when his parents took away his car for three months.

“I think it’s really interesting (being a juror) because you get to weigh both sides of the issue and you get to try and solve the problem,” said Alex Reynolds, a 15-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the presiding juror in Smith’s case. "You’re thinking of what would be the best disposition to give this person? What would be the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen again?" 

RRRRRRRRR

High School Students Learn Justice System

Just as the 16 and 17-year-old defendants in the courtroom learn important lessons about becoming better drivers, the student volunteers are learning, too.

“It’s a benefit to the youth who are volunteering because they get a chance to be part of the legal process. They get a view of the courts and the law, and they themselves are young drivers,” said Fischer.

That’s a big deal because many of the students want to pursue careers in law.  They get community service hours for their participation and face time with with professionals, like two Seattle police officers assigned to the youth court and Karen Donoue, the Seattle Municipal Court’s presiding judge.
 

RRRRRR

“We wanted the whole student (court) model because we want more youth engaged in learning about civic responsibilities,” said Donoue, who co-founded the youth court with Fisher. "It’s more fun to have the kids do it. It’s also a much more meaningful experience for kids to have kids make the rulings… and hear the evidence.”

In their monthly trainings with Seattle University law students, the Garfield High School volunteers review their upcoming cases and dissect the ones that came the month before.

Corinne Davenport is a 17-year-old aspiring lawyer who was afraid to talk in front of strangers before she joined the youth court three years ago. Now, she sits on the judge’s bench and wears a robe.  

RRRRRRRR

“I definitely am better at being professional around people that I don’t know. I’ve learned more how to be a professional person in professional settings —  in a formal setting, like a court room. I’ve learned how to follow court decorum and also have a good time,” she said.

For Rosenast, her time as a defendant was a window into the legal process that she had never seen before.

"I kind of learned just like the formation of the court and who does what. I never really knew like the positions of the court and what their actual responsibility was. I just knew a judge was top gun and then there was the defendant,” she said.

'I Didn't Have Perspective On The Consequences' 

Rosenast described the mood in the courtroom as “tense” while she waited for jurors to return with her fate.

“Everyone was very silent,” Rosenast said. “Everyone was apprehensive.”

RRRRRR

About ten minutes later, the jurors returned and read her sentence aloud.

They  decided Rosenast should interview a school bus driver about the safety of driving in school zones and write a two page, single-spaced paper about what she learned. She must also serve on four youth court juries in order to clear her record.

“(Before this experience,) I didn’t have perspective on the consequences of getting a ticket and what goes into getting that off your record,” Lucia said. “Now I know how much it takes going to all these court cases and putting in all this time. It gives me more perspective,” she said. 

Her father, who watched the hearing from the audience, said he’s hopeful the sentence will teach his daughter something new that paying a fine wouldn’t accomplish.

"I think any bus driver has some really good stories of people that ignore that stop sign and close calls or maybe even kids getting hit,” Alex Rosenast said.  "We’ve all seen that happen where people don’t see the bus, so maybe she’ll get a real eye-opening discussion about how intense that is for the bus driver.”

Sixteen-year-old Lucia Rosenast didn’t know what to expect when she showed up for her first-ever hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court.

“It was a little daunting. I kind of nervous that I was going to be put on the spot, and then I kind of was worried there would be an audience of people judging me,” she said. 

Lucia Rosenhart, 16, of Seattle (left), sits next to her defensive advisor, Hermela Shiferaw, 16, of Seattle, during a traffic youth court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

With a crowd on the benches behind her, Rosenast took an oath and stated her name. But that was only the “normal" part of the next 20 minutes. 

"What’s your GPA?... Do you have any extra curricular activities?... How long have you had your license?” a panel of judges asked the Seattle Academy student. 

Rosenast was there to take responsibility for the traffic mishap that landed her a $419 ticket in January. By telling her story — that she failed to stop for a school bus when she picked up her 14-year-old sister,  she stood a chance at getting her driving record wiped clean.
 
She’d pay a price for the hefty ticket. But she wouldn’t have to pay the fine.  Her fate depended on other teen drivers — the six jurors — who’ve all been defendants in the same hot seat before. 

RRRRRRR

This isn’t your ordinary court hearing. It’s the Seattle Youth Traffic Court, where Garfield High School students are the judges, prosecutors, attorneys and bailiffs once a month. The defendants are 16 and 17-year-old drivers with first-time traffic violations who admit to the offenses and get a clean slate. 

The jurors, also high school students, deliberate and decide on creative, unconventional sentences that teach teen drivers a lesson and restore peace in the communities where driving mistakes caused damage.

“It’s all about getting what you’ve done and trying to acknowledge the consequences of what could have happened,” said Jennet Mitkie, a 16-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the head judge for Rosenast’s hearing. 

From left to right: Student judges Dahlia Gemmer, 16, Jennet Mitikie, 16, and Corinne Davenport, 17, question a teenage defendant during a youth traffic court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

The Seattle diversion program, which operates under Washington law, started in 2012. It’s one of about 1,400 youth courts around the country where young people are sentenced by their peers.  Seattle University law students manage the cases and offer monthly trainings for the 17 student volunteers, who are often interested in careers in the justice system.

“Traffic courts have a real impact on public safety. You can be very creative with kids really learning from their mistakes and not living with this infraction on their record, which causes insurance rates to go up,” said Margaret Fisher, who co-founded the city's youth traffic court in 2012. “I think it’s very important that kids have this intervention.” 

RRRRR

Teen Drivers Serve Unique Sentences

Every defendant is sentenced to at least one jury duty in a future youth traffic court hearing. The rest of the punishment depends on the facts of each case, and it’s heavily influenced by a teen driver’s demeanor.

“The defendant decides what they are going to get,  as I like to see it,” said Mitke, the 16-year-old student judge. "It’s based on their attitude, their knowledge about what they have done and how they respond to the questions. That’s what helps the jury determine what happens.” 

RRRRRRR

They could be required to complete community service hours, write a letter of apology, write an essay, interview a police officer or fulfill another punishment set by the room full of jurors who deliberate after each defendant takes the stand.

“They can make stuff up if they want. I’ve seen them give meditation to somebody who was speeding because she broke up with her boyfriend,” said Jennifer Bitner, a 24 year-old Seattle University law student who has helped manage the youth court for three years.

After his April hearing, Isaiah Smith, a 17-year-old West Seattle High School student, was sentenced to serve on three youth court juries to clear up a $207 speeding ticket he got in January.

Student jurors also decided he would need to find two newspaper stories about how speeding caused a major accident and write a 150 word reflection about each story.

RRRRRR

“It’s not the same kind of impact they would have if all they did was pay a fine,” said Margaret Fisher, co-founder of the program.

Smith told judges he was speeding because he was running late for school on the first day of winter quarter. During deliberations in his case, jurors acknowledged the punishment the teen already had served when his parents took away his car for three months.

“I think it’s really interesting (being a juror) because you get to weigh both sides of the issue and you get to try and solve the problem,” said Alex Reynolds, a 15-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the presiding juror in Smith’s case. "You’re thinking of what would be the best disposition to give this person? What would be the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen again?" 

RRRRRRRRR

High School Students Learn Justice System

Just as the 16 and 17-year-old defendants in the courtroom learn important lessons about becoming better drivers, the student volunteers are learning, too.

“It’s a benefit to the youth who are volunteering because they get a chance to be part of the legal process. They get a view of the courts and the law, and they themselves are young drivers,” said Fischer.

That’s a big deal because many of the students want to pursue careers in law.  They get community service hours for their participation and face time with with professionals, like two Seattle police officers assigned to the youth court and Karen Donoue, the Seattle Municipal Court’s presiding judge.
 

RRRRRR

“We wanted the whole student (court) model because we want more youth engaged in learning about civic responsibilities,” said Donoue, who co-founded the youth court with Fisher. "It’s more fun to have the kids do it. It’s also a much more meaningful experience for kids to have kids make the rulings… and hear the evidence.”

In their monthly trainings with Seattle University law students, the Garfield High School volunteers review their upcoming cases and dissect the ones that came the month before.

Corinne Davenport is a 17-year-old aspiring lawyer who was afraid to talk in front of strangers before she joined the youth court three years ago. Now, she sits on the judge’s bench and wears a robe.  

RRRRRRRR

“I definitely am better at being professional around people that I don’t know. I’ve learned more how to be a professional person in professional settings —  in a formal setting, like a court room. I’ve learned how to follow court decorum and also have a good time,” she said.

For Rosenast, her time as a defendant was a window into the legal process that she had never seen before.

"I kind of learned just like the formation of the court and who does what. I never really knew like the positions of the court and what their actual responsibility was. I just knew a judge was top gun and then there was the defendant,” she said.

'I Didn't Have Perspective On The Consequences' 

Rosenast described the mood in the courtroom as “tense” while she waited for jurors to return with her fate.

“Everyone was very silent,” Rosenast said. “Everyone was apprehensive.”

RRRRRR

About ten minutes later, the jurors returned and read her sentence aloud.

They  decided Rosenast should interview a school bus driver about the safety of driving in school zones and write a two page, single-spaced paper about what she learned. She must also serve on four youth court juries in order to clear her record.

“(Before this experience,) I didn’t have perspective on the consequences of getting a ticket and what goes into getting that off your record,” Lucia said. “Now I know how much it takes going to all these court cases and putting in all this time. It gives me more perspective,” she said. 

Her father, who watched the hearing from the audience, said he’s hopeful the sentence will teach his daughter something new that paying a fine wouldn’t accomplish.

"I think any bus driver has some really good stories of people that ignore that stop sign and close calls or maybe even kids getting hit,” Alex Rosenast said.  "We’ve all seen that happen where people don’t see the bus, so maybe she’ll get a real eye-opening discussion about how intense that is for the bus driver.”

Sixteen-year-old Lucia Rosenast didn’t know what to expect when she showed up for her first-ever hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court.

“It was a little daunting. I kind of nervous that I was going to be put on the spot, and then I kind of was worried there would be an audience of people judging me,” she said. 

Lucia Rosenhart, 16, of Seattle (left), sits next to her defensive advisor, Hermela Shiferaw, 16, of Seattle, during a traffic youth court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

With a crowd on the benches behind her, Rosenast took an oath and stated her name. But that was only the “normal" part of the next 20 minutes. 

"What’s your GPA?... Do you have any extra curricular activities?... How long have you had your license?” a panel of judges asked the Seattle Academy student. 

Rosenast was there to take responsibility for the traffic mishap that landed her a $419 ticket in January. By telling her story — that she failed to stop for a school bus when she picked up her 14-year-old sister,  she stood a chance at getting her driving record wiped clean.
 
She’d pay a price for the hefty ticket. But she wouldn’t have to pay the fine.  Her fate depended on other teen drivers — the six jurors — who’ve all been defendants in the same hot seat before. 

RRRRRRR

This isn’t your ordinary court hearing. It’s the Seattle Youth Traffic Court, where Garfield High School students are the judges, prosecutors, attorneys and bailiffs once a month. The defendants are 16 and 17-year-old drivers with first-time traffic violations who admit to the offenses and get a clean slate. 

The jurors, also high school students, deliberate and decide on creative, unconventional sentences that teach teen drivers a lesson and restore peace in the communities where driving mistakes caused damage.

“It’s all about getting what you’ve done and trying to acknowledge the consequences of what could have happened,” said Jennet Mitkie, a 16-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the head judge for Rosenast’s hearing. 

From left to right: Student judges Dahlia Gemmer, 16, Jennet Mitikie, 16, and Corinne Davenport, 17, question a teenage defendant during a youth traffic court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

The Seattle diversion program, which operates under Washington law, started in 2012. It’s one of about 1,400 youth courts around the country where young people are sentenced by their peers.  Seattle University law students manage the cases and offer monthly trainings for the 17 student volunteers, who are often interested in careers in the justice system.

“Traffic courts have a real impact on public safety. You can be very creative with kids really learning from their mistakes and not living with this infraction on their record, which causes insurance rates to go up,” said Margaret Fisher, who co-founded the city's youth traffic court in 2012. “I think it’s very important that kids have this intervention.” 

RRRRR

Teen Drivers Serve Unique Sentences

Every defendant is sentenced to at least one jury duty in a future youth traffic court hearing. The rest of the punishment depends on the facts of each case, and it’s heavily influenced by a teen driver’s demeanor.

“The defendant decides what they are going to get,  as I like to see it,” said Mitke, the 16-year-old student judge. "It’s based on their attitude, their knowledge about what they have done and how they respond to the questions. That’s what helps the jury determine what happens.” 

RRRRRRR

They could be required to complete community service hours, write a letter of apology, write an essay, interview a police officer or fulfill another punishment set by the room full of jurors who deliberate after each defendant takes the stand.

“They can make stuff up if they want. I’ve seen them give meditation to somebody who was speeding because she broke up with her boyfriend,” said Jennifer Bitner, a 24 year-old Seattle University law student who has helped manage the youth court for three years.

After his April hearing, Isaiah Smith, a 17-year-old West Seattle High School student, was sentenced to serve on three youth court juries to clear up a $207 speeding ticket he got in January.

Student jurors also decided he would need to find two newspaper stories about how speeding caused a major accident and write a 150 word reflection about each story.

RRRRRR

“It’s not the same kind of impact they would have if all they did was pay a fine,” said Margaret Fisher, co-founder of the program.

Smith told judges he was speeding because he was running late for school on the first day of winter quarter. During deliberations in his case, jurors acknowledged the punishment the teen already had served when his parents took away his car for three months.

“I think it’s really interesting (being a juror) because you get to weigh both sides of the issue and you get to try and solve the problem,” said Alex Reynolds, a 15-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the presiding juror in Smith’s case. "You’re thinking of what would be the best disposition to give this person? What would be the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen again?" 

RRRRRRRRR

High School Students Learn Justice System

Just as the 16 and 17-year-old defendants in the courtroom learn important lessons about becoming better drivers, the student volunteers are learning, too.

“It’s a benefit to the youth who are volunteering because they get a chance to be part of the legal process. They get a view of the courts and the law, and they themselves are young drivers,” said Fischer.

That’s a big deal because many of the students want to pursue careers in law.  They get community service hours for their participation and face time with with professionals, like two Seattle police officers assigned to the youth court and Karen Donoue, the Seattle Municipal Court’s presiding judge.
 

RRRRRR

“We wanted the whole student (court) model because we want more youth engaged in learning about civic responsibilities,” said Donoue, who co-founded the youth court with Fisher. "It’s more fun to have the kids do it. It’s also a much more meaningful experience for kids to have kids make the rulings… and hear the evidence.”

In their monthly trainings with Seattle University law students, the Garfield High School volunteers review their upcoming cases and dissect the ones that came the month before.

Corinne Davenport is a 17-year-old aspiring lawyer who was afraid to talk in front of strangers before she joined the youth court three years ago. Now, she sits on the judge’s bench and wears a robe.  

RRRRRRRR

“I definitely am better at being professional around people that I don’t know. I’ve learned more how to be a professional person in professional settings —  in a formal setting, like a court room. I’ve learned how to follow court decorum and also have a good time,” she said.

For Rosenast, her time as a defendant was a window into the legal process that she had never seen before.

"I kind of learned just like the formation of the court and who does what. I never really knew like the positions of the court and what their actual responsibility was. I just knew a judge was top gun and then there was the defendant,” she said.

'I Didn't Have Perspective On The Consequences' 

Rosenast described the mood in the courtroom as “tense” while she waited for jurors to return with her fate.

“Everyone was very silent,” Rosenast said. “Everyone was apprehensive.”

RRRRRR

About ten minutes later, the jurors returned and read her sentence aloud.

They  decided Rosenast should interview a school bus driver about the safety of driving in school zones and write a two page, single-spaced paper about what she learned. She must also serve on four youth court juries in order to clear her record.

“(Before this experience,) I didn’t have perspective on the consequences of getting a ticket and what goes into getting that off your record,” Lucia said. “Now I know how much it takes going to all these court cases and putting in all this time. It gives me more perspective,” she said. 

Her father, who watched the hearing from the audience, said he’s hopeful the sentence will teach his daughter something new that paying a fine wouldn’t accomplish.

"I think any bus driver has some really good stories of people that ignore that stop sign and close calls or maybe even kids getting hit,” Alex Rosenast said.  "We’ve all seen that happen where people don’t see the bus, so maybe she’ll get a real eye-opening discussion about how intense that is for the bus driver.”

Sixteen-year-old Lucia Rosenast didn’t know what to expect when she showed up for her first-ever hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court.

“It was a little daunting. I kind of nervous that I was going to be put on the spot, and then I kind of was worried there would be an audience of people judging me,” she said. 

Lucia Rosenhart, 16, of Seattle (left), sits next to her defensive advisor, Hermela Shiferaw, 16, of Seattle, during a traffic youth court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

With a crowd on the benches behind her, Rosenast took an oath and stated her name. But that was only the “normal" part of the next 20 minutes. 

"What’s your GPA?... Do you have any extra curricular activities?... How long have you had your license?” a panel of judges asked the Seattle Academy student. 

Rosenast was there to take responsibility for the traffic mishap that landed her a $419 ticket in January. By telling her story — that she failed to stop for a school bus when she picked up her 14-year-old sister,  she stood a chance at getting her driving record wiped clean.
 
She’d pay a price for the hefty ticket. But she wouldn’t have to pay the fine.  Her fate depended on other teen drivers — the six jurors — who’ve all been defendants in the same hot seat before. 

RRRRRRR

This isn’t your ordinary court hearing. It’s the Seattle Youth Traffic Court, where Garfield High School students are the judges, prosecutors, attorneys and bailiffs once a month. The defendants are 16 and 17-year-old drivers with first-time traffic violations who admit to the offenses and get a clean slate. 

The jurors, also high school students, deliberate and decide on creative, unconventional sentences that teach teen drivers a lesson and restore peace in the communities where driving mistakes caused damage.

“It’s all about getting what you’ve done and trying to acknowledge the consequences of what could have happened,” said Jennet Mitkie, a 16-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the head judge for Rosenast’s hearing. 

From left to right: Student judges Dahlia Gemmer, 16, Jennet Mitikie, 16, and Corinne Davenport, 17, question a teenage defendant during a youth traffic court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

The Seattle diversion program, which operates under Washington law, started in 2012. It’s one of about 1,400 youth courts around the country where young people are sentenced by their peers.  Seattle University law students manage the cases and offer monthly trainings for the 17 student volunteers, who are often interested in careers in the justice system.

“Traffic courts have a real impact on public safety. You can be very creative with kids really learning from their mistakes and not living with this infraction on their record, which causes insurance rates to go up,” said Margaret Fisher, who co-founded the city's youth traffic court in 2012. “I think it’s very important that kids have this intervention.” 

RRRRR

Teen Drivers Serve Unique Sentences

Every defendant is sentenced to at least one jury duty in a future youth traffic court hearing. The rest of the punishment depends on the facts of each case, and it’s heavily influenced by a teen driver’s demeanor.

“The defendant decides what they are going to get,  as I like to see it,” said Mitke, the 16-year-old student judge. "It’s based on their attitude, their knowledge about what they have done and how they respond to the questions. That’s what helps the jury determine what happens.” 

RRRRRRR

They could be required to complete community service hours, write a letter of apology, write an essay, interview a police officer or fulfill another punishment set by the room full of jurors who deliberate after each defendant takes the stand.

“They can make stuff up if they want. I’ve seen them give meditation to somebody who was speeding because she broke up with her boyfriend,” said Jennifer Bitner, a 24 year-old Seattle University law student who has helped manage the youth court for three years.

After his April hearing, Isaiah Smith, a 17-year-old West Seattle High School student, was sentenced to serve on three youth court juries to clear up a $207 speeding ticket he got in January.

Student jurors also decided he would need to find two newspaper stories about how speeding caused a major accident and write a 150 word reflection about each story.

RRRRRR

“It’s not the same kind of impact they would have if all they did was pay a fine,” said Margaret Fisher, co-founder of the program.

Smith told judges he was speeding because he was running late for school on the first day of winter quarter. During deliberations in his case, jurors acknowledged the punishment the teen already had served when his parents took away his car for three months.

“I think it’s really interesting (being a juror) because you get to weigh both sides of the issue and you get to try and solve the problem,” said Alex Reynolds, a 15-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the presiding juror in Smith’s case. "You’re thinking of what would be the best disposition to give this person? What would be the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen again?" 

RRRRRRRRR

High School Students Learn Justice System

Just as the 16 and 17-year-old defendants in the courtroom learn important lessons about becoming better drivers, the student volunteers are learning, too.

“It’s a benefit to the youth who are volunteering because they get a chance to be part of the legal process. They get a view of the courts and the law, and they themselves are young drivers,” said Fischer.

That’s a big deal because many of the students want to pursue careers in law.  They get community service hours for their participation and face time with with professionals, like two Seattle police officers assigned to the youth court and Karen Donoue, the Seattle Municipal Court’s presiding judge.
 

RRRRRR

“We wanted the whole student (court) model because we want more youth engaged in learning about civic responsibilities,” said Donoue, who co-founded the youth court with Fisher. "It’s more fun to have the kids do it. It’s also a much more meaningful experience for kids to have kids make the rulings… and hear the evidence.”

In their monthly trainings with Seattle University law students, the Garfield High School volunteers review their upcoming cases and dissect the ones that came the month before.

Corinne Davenport is a 17-year-old aspiring lawyer who was afraid to talk in front of strangers before she joined the youth court three years ago. Now, she sits on the judge’s bench and wears a robe.  

RRRRRRRR

“I definitely am better at being professional around people that I don’t know. I’ve learned more how to be a professional person in professional settings —  in a formal setting, like a court room. I’ve learned how to follow court decorum and also have a good time,” she said.

For Rosenast, her time as a defendant was a window into the legal process that she had never seen before.

"I kind of learned just like the formation of the court and who does what. I never really knew like the positions of the court and what their actual responsibility was. I just knew a judge was top gun and then there was the defendant,” she said.

'I Didn't Have Perspective On The Consequences' 

Rosenast described the mood in the courtroom as “tense” while she waited for jurors to return with her fate.

“Everyone was very silent,” Rosenast said. “Everyone was apprehensive.”

RRRRRR

About ten minutes later, the jurors returned and read her sentence aloud.

They  decided Rosenast should interview a school bus driver about the safety of driving in school zones and write a two page, single-spaced paper about what she learned. She must also serve on four youth court juries in order to clear her record.

“(Before this experience,) I didn’t have perspective on the consequences of getting a ticket and what goes into getting that off your record,” Lucia said. “Now I know how much it takes going to all these court cases and putting in all this time. It gives me more perspective,” she said. 

Her father, who watched the hearing from the audience, said he’s hopeful the sentence will teach his daughter something new that paying a fine wouldn’t accomplish.

"I think any bus driver has some really good stories of people that ignore that stop sign and close calls or maybe even kids getting hit,” Alex Rosenast said.  "We’ve all seen that happen where people don’t see the bus, so maybe she’ll get a real eye-opening discussion about how intense that is for the bus driver.”

Sixteen-year-old Lucia Rosenast didn’t know what to expect when she showed up for her first-ever hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court.

“It was a little daunting. I kind of nervous that I was going to be put on the spot, and then I kind of was worried there would be an audience of people judging me,” she said. 

Lucia Rosenhart, 16, of Seattle (left), sits next to her defensive advisor, Hermela Shiferaw, 16, of Seattle, during a traffic youth court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

With a crowd on the benches behind her, Rosenast took an oath and stated her name. But that was only the “normal" part of the next 20 minutes. 

"What’s your GPA?... Do you have any extra curricular activities?... How long have you had your license?” a panel of judges asked the Seattle Academy student. 

Rosenast was there to take responsibility for the traffic mishap that landed her a $419 ticket in January. By telling her story — that she failed to stop for a school bus when she picked up her 14-year-old sister,  she stood a chance at getting her driving record wiped clean.
 
She’d pay a price for the hefty ticket. But she wouldn’t have to pay the fine.  Her fate depended on other teen drivers — the six jurors — who’ve all been defendants in the same hot seat before. 

RRRRRRR

This isn’t your ordinary court hearing. It’s the Seattle Youth Traffic Court, where Garfield High School students are the judges, prosecutors, attorneys and bailiffs once a month. The defendants are 16 and 17-year-old drivers with first-time traffic violations who admit to the offenses and get a clean slate. 

The jurors, also high school students, deliberate and decide on creative, unconventional sentences that teach teen drivers a lesson and restore peace in the communities where driving mistakes caused damage.

“It’s all about getting what you’ve done and trying to acknowledge the consequences of what could have happened,” said Jennet Mitkie, a 16-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the head judge for Rosenast’s hearing. 

From left to right: Student judges Dahlia Gemmer, 16, Jennet Mitikie, 16, and Corinne Davenport, 17, question a teenage defendant during a youth traffic court hearing at the Seattle Municipal Court on April 17, 2017. (Taylor Mirfendereski | KING 5)

The Seattle diversion program, which operates under Washington law, started in 2012. It’s one of about 1,400 youth courts around the country where young people are sentenced by their peers.  Seattle University law students manage the cases and offer monthly trainings for the 17 student volunteers, who are often interested in careers in the justice system.

“Traffic courts have a real impact on public safety. You can be very creative with kids really learning from their mistakes and not living with this infraction on their record, which causes insurance rates to go up,” said Margaret Fisher, who co-founded the city's youth traffic court in 2012. “I think it’s very important that kids have this intervention.” 

RRRRR

Teen Drivers Serve Unique Sentences

Every defendant is sentenced to at least one jury duty in a future youth traffic court hearing. The rest of the punishment depends on the facts of each case, and it’s heavily influenced by a teen driver’s demeanor.

“The defendant decides what they are going to get,  as I like to see it,” said Mitke, the 16-year-old student judge. "It’s based on their attitude, their knowledge about what they have done and how they respond to the questions. That’s what helps the jury determine what happens.” 

RRRRRRR

They could be required to complete community service hours, write a letter of apology, write an essay, interview a police officer or fulfill another punishment set by the room full of jurors who deliberate after each defendant takes the stand.

“They can make stuff up if they want. I’ve seen them give meditation to somebody who was speeding because she broke up with her boyfriend,” said Jennifer Bitner, a 24 year-old Seattle University law student who has helped manage the youth court for three years.

After his April hearing, Isaiah Smith, a 17-year-old West Seattle High School student, was sentenced to serve on three youth court juries to clear up a $207 speeding ticket he got in January.

Student jurors also decided he would need to find two newspaper stories about how speeding caused a major accident and write a 150 word reflection about each story.

RRRRRR

“It’s not the same kind of impact they would have if all they did was pay a fine,” said Margaret Fisher, co-founder of the program.

Smith told judges he was speeding because he was running late for school on the first day of winter quarter. During deliberations in his case, jurors acknowledged the punishment the teen already had served when his parents took away his car for three months.

“I think it’s really interesting (being a juror) because you get to weigh both sides of the issue and you get to try and solve the problem,” said Alex Reynolds, a 15-year-old Garfield High School volunteer and the presiding juror in Smith’s case. "You’re thinking of what would be the best disposition to give this person? What would be the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen again?" 

RRRRRRRRR

High School Students Learn Justice System

Just as the 16 and 17-year-old defendants in the courtroom learn important lessons about becoming better drivers, the student volunteers are learning, too.

“It’s a benefit to the youth who are volunteering because they get a chance to be part of the legal process. They get a view of the courts and the law, and they themselves are young drivers,” said Fischer.

That’s a big deal because many of the students want to pursue careers in law.  They get community service hours for their participation and face time with with professionals, like two Seattle police officers assigned to the youth court and Karen Donoue, the Seattle Municipal Court’s presiding judge.
 

RRRRRR

“We wanted the whole student (court) model because we want more youth engaged in learning about civic responsibilities,” said Donoue, who co-founded the youth court with Fisher. "It’s more fun to have the kids do it. It’s also a much more meaningful experience for kids to have kids make the rulings… and hear the evidence.”

In their monthly trainings with Seattle University law students, the Garfield High School volunteers review their upcoming cases and dissect the ones that came the month before.

Corinne Davenport is a 17-year-old aspiring lawyer who was afraid to talk in front of strangers before she joined the youth court three years ago. Now, she sits on the judge’s bench and wears a robe.  

RRRRRRRR

“I definitely am better at being professional around people that I don’t know. I’ve learned more how to be a professional person in professional settings —  in a formal setting, like a court room. I’ve learned how to follow court decorum and also have a good time,” she said.

For Rosenast, her time as a defendant was a window into the legal process that she had never seen before.

"I kind of learned just like the formation of the court and who does what. I never really knew like the positions of the court and what their actual responsibility was. I just knew a judge was top gun and then there was the defendant,” she said.

'I Didn't Have Perspective On The Consequences' 

Rosenast described the mood in the courtroom as “tense” while she waited for jurors to return with her fate.

“Everyone was very silent,” Rosenast said. “Everyone was apprehensive.”

RRRRRR

About ten minutes later, the jurors returned and read her sentence aloud.

They  decided Rosenast should interview a school bus driver about the safety of driving in school zones and write a two page, single-spaced paper about what she learned. She must also serve on four youth court juries in order to clear her record.

“(Before this experience,) I didn’t have perspective on the consequences of getting a ticket and what goes into getting that off your record,” Lucia said. “Now I know how much it takes going to all these court cases and putting in all this time. It gives me more perspective,” she said. 

Her father, who watched the hearing from the audience, said he’s hopeful the sentence will teach his daughter something new that paying a fine wouldn’t accomplish.

"I think any bus driver has some really good stories of people that ignore that stop sign and close calls or maybe even kids getting hit,” Alex Rosenast said.  "We’ve all seen that happen where people don’t see the bus, so maybe she’ll get a real eye-opening discussion about how intense that is for the bus driver.”