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Cattaraugus County Youth Court serves as a voluntary alternative to the Juvenile Justice System for youth who are first-time, non-violent offenders. Join the Youth Court Team ... You WILL make a Difference!

What Is Youth Court?

Youth Court is a voluntary alternative to the Juvenile Justice System for first-time, nonviolent offenders between the ages of 7 and 17 years old who are willing to admit culpability for the offense. The goal of the Youth Court is to intervene in the early anti-social and delinquent behavior. Youth Court strives to promote feelings of self-esteem and a desire for self-improvement, and to foster a healthy attitude toward rules and authority. Youth Court also offers a law-related education program for young people who seek to become members of the court.

Youth Court in Your Area

There are over 1,000 Youth Courts in operation in the United States. There are over 80 Youth Courts operating in New York State alone. The Cattaraugus County Youth Bureau implemented their county wide Youth Court program in 1998. Since that time, we have trained Youth Court Team Members from the Gowanda, Randolph, Ellicottville, Franklinville, West Valley, Salamanca, Cattaraugus-Little Valley, Portville, and Pioneer school districts.

Youth Court Hearings are held at the Cattaraugus County Building in Little Valley, the Machias Town Hall as well as the Portville Town Court.

Hearing nights are scheduled on an as needed basis, but not more than twice a month. Hearings begin at 6:15PM and ends before 8:00pm.

What Types of Cases Are Heard in Youth Court?

Cases are generally referred by the police, probation dept., local courts and schools. Typical cases that may be heard in Youth Court include petit larceny, assault and unlawful possession of marijuana, etc. Youth Court currently processes misdemeanors and violations under New York State Penal Law as well as various school infractions including truancy and smoking.

Youth Court hearings are conducted to determine only the consequences for an offense. The respondent must admit guilt or culpability to the offense, as charged, prior to acceptance for a Youth Court hearing. Youth Court is NOT a trial to determine guilt or innocence. The respondent must voluntarily agree to have their consequences determined at a Youth Court hearing.

What Happens in Youth Court?

A youth, who has admitted guilt to a crime or an offense, appears for a sentencing hearing before a jury of peers. The jury is presented with the evidence, deliberates and passes sentence. Sentences may include apology letters, essays, community service, counseling education, and serving as a jury member on another Youth Court hearing.

Team members then fill the traditional courtroom roles of:

  • Judge
  • Defense
  • Prosecution
  • Clerk/Bailiff
  • Jury Foreman

The Youth Court Program Coordinator supervises the Youth Court hearing and daily operation of the Youth Court Program, as well as the case supervision of the respondent's performance of sanctions.

Membership Requirements

Members of Youth Court consist of middle and high school students who have successfully completed a training program and have been sworn in as Youth Court Team Members. Each member must commit to at least 1 Year of service on the Youth Court Team.

Areas of instruction include an overview of the criminal justice system, NYS Penal Law, sentencing issues, the consequences of crime, etc. The training program concludes with mock hearings to prepare members for participation in Youth Court proceedings.

What Are Some Benefits of Youth Court?

  • Youth Court provides team members an opportunity to build a better community and school through their participation and service to youth.
  • Members learn more about the legal system and juvenile law, and develop public speaking and leadership skills.
  • The Youth Court program is highly recognized by the National Honor Society, colleges and universities as an important element of community service.

Come join the Youth Court Team ... You WILL make a Difference!


For more information regarding the Cattaraugus County Youth Court program or becoming a member, please contact the Program Coordinator at (716) 938-2617 or by completing the Youth Court Contact Form.

More Information

The Cattaraugus County Youth Court Program is made possible with the support of the Cattaraugus County Legislature and with funding from:

  • Cattaraugus County Youth Bureau
  • Cattaraugus County Department of Social Services
  • New York State Office of Children and Family Services Youth Development Program