“All rise, Williamson County Court is now in session,” announces a lithe, youthful judge in the Precinct 3 justice of the peace courtroom in Georgetown. A 16-year-old prosecutor presents the case against a 16-year-old youth charged with driving 11 to 20 mph above the speed limit.
Also seated is a jury of peers, attentively listening to the judge who says, “By the oath you’ve taken, you have become officials of this court; participant’s duty is to listen, not to talk with anyone.”
The prosecutor approaches the bench and presents the details of the case against the young driver. The driver participates virtually. “Clear weather, no traffic on a county road north of Georgetown,” she responds to a question concerning conditions under which the alleged violation occurred. The student, who was alone in the car, also identified herself as a serious student, working 15 to 20 hours per week and active in extra-curricular programs.
The prosecutor is unswayed and declares the defendant to have “willfully chosen to speed and irresponsibly created a hazardous condition.” She clarifies that this is a Class 2 misdemeanor and suggests 20 to 30 hours of community service and one jury term.
The youth assigned as the defense attorney then rises and presents the defendant as a responsible person, demonstrated by her involvement in the community, working, maintaining high grades and actively participating in school activities. The attorney further states that her actions that day reflected an urgency to reach school on time and recommends only 20 hours of community service.
With the defense’s closure, the jury is released to convene on the case to a deliberation room near the courtroom.
I’m listening and viewing this activity virtually. Wow – this group of teens understood their responsibilities and were holding a real court hearing with consequences. How did this come to be?