Teens sought to be attorneys, juries for Maricopa Teen Court

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Maricopa will soon pilot the only teen court in Pinal County.

Teenagers begin a three-day training at Copper Sky on Wednesday, hosted by representatives of the Pinal County Juvenile Probation Department.

Teresa Fuller, juvenile probation supervisor with the county, said teenagers will fill the roles of defense attorney, prosecution, bailiff, victims’ advocate and jury in future cases involving their peers.

“The (hearings) are going to be held by teens, so we are going to go over how to do opening and closing statements, how to present a case, all of that,” Fuller said.

Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer and Maricopa/Stanfield Justice of the Peace Lyle Riggs will be among the local legal experts who will provide some of the training.

Teens will learn the types of cases heard in the court, as well as “what consequences are available within the teen court program or what interventions are available per respondent,” Fuller said.

Fuller’s department began considering Maricopa for a teen court early this year after county data revealed the percentage of teen juvenile referrals in the city had increased slightly over the past two years compared to other cities.

San Tan, Casa Grande and Maricopa hold the highest number of juvenile referrals in the county. Maricopa was the only one that witnessed a rise in teen referrals, while the other two cities saw a decrease in percentages.

In January, Fuller pitched the idea to local government, educational, and community agencies. As a result, three work groups were formed to implement the court, one of which was a panel of teens.

“They wrote their code of conduct, their oath of confidentiality and their dress code,” Fuller said.

Teenagers between the ages of 12 and 18 are eligible to attend training July 26-28 from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Copper Sky Recreational Center. Eighteen-year-olds who apply must still be enrolled in high school.

Fuller said teenagers do not have to live in Maricopa to be an officer of the teen court or to attend the training.

To register, contact Fuller at tefuller@courts.az.gov or (520) 866-7061.