Youth Court participants from Martin Middle School and Texas Law convened at the Texas Capitol April 5, 2017. They met staff attorneys from Texas State Senator Royce West’s office, toured the Capitol building, and observed a committee meeting. They then proceeded to the Texas Supreme Court where the middle school students participated in a mock trial, which the law students had helped them prepare in the Youth Court class. Justice Jeff Boyd judged and facilitated. Finally, the group enjoyed a picnic with Texas Law Professor David Sokolow, who taught a mock law class that boiled his 1L contracts course into an impressive 25 minutes.
Youth Court, a Texas Law student organization, is an alternative discipline program designed to challenge the school-to-prison-pipeline, a national trend whereby children are funneled out of schools and into the juvenile justice system. Law students involved in Youth Court work in local middle schools to train and supervise students to hold peer-run trials and also serve as mentors to at-risk students, engaging them in a positive disciplinary program.
Justice Center research associate Meg Clifford ’12 founded Youth Court as a law student and now advises the organization as part of her work on educational equity. “We appreciate Senator West’s staff, Justice Boyd and his clerks, and Professor Sokolow for the time and energy they spent engaging our students in the legislative process, litigation and debate, and contract concepts that stumped so many of us as 1Ls,” said Clifford. “Thanks too to law student leaders Alex Shahrestani, Kiah DeBolt, Ethan Nutter, and Sam Whitehead for running the Youth Court program this year and capping the year off with a great field trip.”
In addition to advising Youth Court, Clifford works closely with the Richard and Ginni Mithoff Pro Bono Program, supervising the Expunction Project, advising Street Law, and encouraging law students to get to work helping others long before they graduate. The Pro Bono Program is part of the Justice Center, playing a central role in fulfilling the Justice Center’s mission to promote equal justice for all and to support public service in the legal profession.