Seattle Youth Traffic Court

What is the Seattle Youth Traffic Court?

Seattle Youth Traffic Court (Youth Court), an ATJI Partnership Project, is the first youth court to be offered in Seattle. Youth Court is a diversion process in which youth from Garfield High School sentence their peers who have received actual traffic tickets in Seattle. Any youth under the age of 18 without prior traffic violations are offered the opportunity to be sentenced by the youth court.

Operating under restorative justice principles, Garfield High School students conduct monthly hearings and sentence their peers using creative sentencing. Youth completing their sentences have their tickets dismissed, and no report is made to the Department of Licensing. It received the Seattle Youth Civic Education Award from the Seattle CityClub and the Seattle University Spirit of the Community Award.

Youth Court is part of the Seattle University Youth Initiative, a long-term commitment by Seattle University faculty, staff, and students from all disciplines to join with parents, the Seattle School District, the City of Seattle, foundations, faith communities and more than 30 community organizations to help children of our immediate neighborhood succeed in school and life. Click here for more information on the Youth Initiative.

How Does the Seattle Youth Traffic Court Work?

Garfield students serve as judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, jury, and court staff. The court conducts up to eight hearings once per month in two virtual courtrooms until cases can be safely resumed at the Seattle Municipal Court. Dispositions generally include service on future youth court juries. The Garfield defense attorney then mentors the defendant to ensure completion of the disposition. SU law students develop policies, provide training, help the Garfield students prepare cases, manage the cases, and help with the hearings.

Why Should Law Students Get Involved?

  • Learn extensive legal content about civil procedure and traffic-related laws.
  • Develop leadership skills through program management and youth mentorship.
  • Get experience collaborating with many different partners including youth, teachers, and judges.
  • Hone legal skills by managing court processes.
  • Develop grant-writing, systems creation, and policy making skills.

What Kind of Commitment Do Law Students Need to make to Be Involved?

Students must commit to approximately two to three hours per week, with hearings and training to be held at a regular time and day on Mondays. Hearings occur once monthly on the third or fourth Monday of the month. Trainings occur the first or second Monday of the month. Additionally, the law student mentors meet every other week or once monthly on Mondays. When in-person sessions are resumed, food is served.