The City of McAllen’s Municipal Court was awarded a grant from the Texas Bar Foundation in the amount of $7,965 to help revamp its Teen Court Program, which will allow teenage offenders dispose of their citations in a court of their peers, help other teen offenders through the court process and become observers and participants to the judicial process. The grant will pay for upgrades to the current McAllen Municipal Court Teen Court program, including purchasing supplies, food, court attire for indigent teens and a mural that will be painted in the courtroom set aside for teen offenses.
“Thanks to this grant, we will be able to revamp our Teen Court program and help our local teens navigate the judicial process with a true jury of their peers,” said McAllen Municipal Court Presiding Judge Lauren Sepulveda.
Currently, McAllen Municipal Court’s Teen Court program is still operating under COVID protocols, which means teenagers are not conducting mock trials, but rather, simply completing essays or homework assignments to adjudicate the offenses. With the grant, applications will be opened for teenagers from throughout McAllen, to serve as jurors, prosecutors, and defense attorneys, with appropriate training.
Teen offenders cited for class C misdemeanor offenses, ranging from minor in possession, including tobacco, e-cigarettes, or alcohol; traffic violations; or disorderly conduct may be offered the opportunity to have their case heard in Teen Court. In Teen Court, they will plead guilty, or no contest and their punishment be argued by teen attorneys and assessed by a jury of their peers, which often includes community service, tutoring, classes and/or serving as jurors in future Teen Court cases. Once completed, fines or fees will be waived, and case is dismissed.
Teen Court also is less of a financial burden for parents, because aside from dismissing some of the costs of a regular trial, teenagers who cannot afford suits or business attire will be provided one, courtesy of the McAllen Municipal Court Teen Court Program.
“I am really excited about the opportunity to revamp the Teen Court Program for our McAllen teenagers, who, as sometimes happens, may make a youthful mistake and but now have a path to rectify and learn from their mistakes, all while learning about and becoming an active participant in the administration of justice. Aside from helping teens keep their criminal records clean, we hope the Teen Court program will help inspire teens to pursue careers in the criminal justice system,” added Judge Sepulveda.
To learn more about how to apply for the McAllen Municipal Court Teen Program, please contact Teen Court Coordinator Giselle Fernandez at (956) 681-2900 or via email at email@example.com. McAllen teenagers can download the application from www.mcallen.net/departments/courtstarting on Monday, November 20, 2023.
For more information on the McAllen Teen Court, follow them on Facebook as McAllen Municipal Court or Instagram as mcallenmunicourt.
Since its inception in 1965, the Texas Bar Foundation has awarded more than $26 million in grants to law-related programs. Supported by members of the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Bar Foundation is the nation’s largest charitably funded bar foundation.