By: Megan Adriaens
For the past twenty years, Clarkston High School students have had the opportunity to be involved in Teen Court. What is teen court? Teen Court is for teens who are under the age of 17 and who have committed their first non-violent misdemeanor. Judges Kostin and Fabrizio volunteer their time and their courtroom, down at the Clarkston District Courtroom for these special cases. As for the students that participate in the program they have the opportunity to be clerks, jurors, and even lawyers, during the trial. Mr. Zittel and Mrs. Grasso have 50 Clarkston students collectively enrolled in this program.
October, 25, 2017, was a Wednesday and to a young teen girl that Wednesday would change her life. With a 3.6 GPA, she didn't seem like the type to steal a pair of socks. On this day, two teens from Clarkston High School served as lawyers in a teen court case that would play a huge role in the rest of the defendant's life.
Since this individual, like all that have cases tried in Teen Court, have plead guilty to a crime, their case doesn't go on their criminal record. According to the prosecuting attorney, Lorraine Walsh, this is what made Teen Court very different from a real court.
Not only does teen court serve as an opportunity for the defendant but, also for the teens that serve in the court as well. Whether you want to be a prosecuting attorney like Serena Scarpelli, who served as the defense attorney in the trial or like Lorraine Walsh who just enjoys the atmosphere, it's an opportunity that's unique to Clarkston.
Teen court has to have some restrictions for the teens involved. This is strictly because the defendants still have to have a fair trial, and it wouldn't be fair if the Teen Court personnel didn't know what to do next. One of these restrictions was an adult supervisor for the attorneys. Walsh states "the mentors were helpful but they took some of the power away from the attorney."
Since this is a school-related activity, these students did gain a thing or two from the experience. Scarpelli claims "that it's harder to be a defense attorney than a prosecutor." Walsh learned that "it takes a lot to be a lawyer." This experience also had an emotional effect on Walsh, "As the prosecutor it was hard to set aside my personal feelings from the trial because the defendant looked genuinely sorry for the whole thing," Whereas Scarpelli didn't have much trouble because she was defending a truely sorry individual.
Teen court has made such an influence on several people in the Clarkston region and has left many to question when will others want to join this program?