Youth Court

About Youth Court

Youth Court logo

Welcome to the Town of Colonie Youth Court. Youth Court is a voluntary alternative to the criminal justice system for young people who have committed a crime or an offense. The goal of Youth Court is to intervene in early anti-social, delinquent, and criminal behavior, and to reduce the incidence and prevent the escalation of such behavior. Youth Court strives to promote feelings of self esteem and a desire for self improvement, and to foster a healthy attitude towards rules and authority. Youth Court also offers a law-related education program for young people who seek to become members of the court.

In the Spring of 1993, members of the Town of Colonie Youth Bureau Advisory Board heard about an interesting concept to combat juvenile crime- youth courts (sometimes referred to as teen courts or peer courts). Although youth courts have been around for a number of years (research has shown that Ithaca, New York had such a court in the 1960s), they began a resurgence in the early 1990s after Odessa, Texas publicized the success of its then recently established teen court. In 1993, the United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of New York assisted in the institution of a youth court in Onondaga County (Syracuse) and it was to this youth court that the Town of Colonie Youth Bureau Advisory Board members traveled in May, 1993, to observe Onondaga's first cases, and to see whether youth court could be brought to Colonie. Also in attendance were representatives of the Colonie Police Department and the Albany Office of the United States Attorney's Office.

After observing the Onondaga Youth Court, enthusiasm for a Colonie Youth Court, which already was high, only increased. An advisory board was established, drawing on help from the entire capital region. Police and probation officers, prosecutors, defenders, educators and others joined together to examine the concept. The feeling was strong, and it was supported by the research, that youth courts could be successful in decreasing the incidence of criminal and anti-social behavior among young people. Over the course of the next year, the youth court concept was investigated thoroughly, a regional not-for-profit-corporation, Youth Courts of the Capital District, Inc. (YCCD) was formed (December, 1993), decisions were made on structure, a training manual was prepared, and a training program was instituted.

Among the many structural decisions that had to be made, YCCD chose to develop a youth judge model, in which every role in youth court is held by a student. While some youth court models have adult judges, YCCD chose to place complete trust in the student members. Also, YCCD chose to have youth court act only as a sentencing court. Since youth court targets young people who are at risk for ever increasing criminal behavior, and since acceptance of responsibility is a necessary first step toward rehabilitation, it was felt that a person who was not guilty, or who would not admit their guilt, was not a good candidate for youth court.

Colonie Youth Court commenced its first training class in September of 1994, and heard its first cases in January of 1995. YCCD later opened courts in Bethlehem and East Greenbush. Upon the dissolution of YCCD in 2000, Colonie Youth Court, Inc. was formed until 2004. The Town of Colonie acquired our Youth Court program on April 26, 2004. It now operates under the Colonie Police Department.”

Training in Colonie Youth Court continues every September, with between 40 and 50 student members enrolling every year. Colonie Youth Court hears, on average, slightly less than 100 cases per year.

In 1997 Colonie Youth Court was chosen by the New York State Division for Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) to serve as a state-wide model for youth courts. Colonie Youth Court was one of three courts featured in a 1999 nationwide teleconference on youth courts sponsored by the United States Department of Justice and hosted by the University of Kentucky at Lexington. Colonie Youth Court is a featured court in two major publications: Peer Justice and Youth Empowerment: An Implementation Guide for Teen Court Programs, and the National Youth Court Guidelines.

Colonie Youth Court board members serve on a number of national committees aimed at improving and enhancing youth court programming throughout the U. S. Youth Court was even a topic in presentations to representatives of law enforcement of the former Soviet Union, and is an agenda item at discussions at the United Nations.

College Scholarship Winners

South Colonie Dollars for Scholars (Colonie Youth Court Scholarship)
  • 2017 Winner: Peter MacAloney Peter MacAloney
    2017 South Colonie Dollars for Scholars Winner (Colonie Youth Court Scholarship)
South Colonie Dollars for Scholars (Grandparents Scholarship)
  • 2017 Winner: John Waterman John Waterman
    2017 South Colonie Dollars for Scholars Winner (Grandparents Scholarship)
The Robert M. Auld Scholarship (Sponsored by the Pinheiro Family)
  • 2017 Winner: Lauren Dentinger Lauren Dentinger
    2017 Robert M. Auld Scholarship Winner
  • 2016 Winners: Sophia Casabonne Sophia Casabonne
    2016 Robert M. Auld Scholarship and The Association of NYS Youth Courts, Inc. Scholarship Winner
    & Karissa McAuley Karissa McAuley
    2016 Robert M. Auld Scholarship Winner
    (tie)
  • 2015 Winner: Brittany Moeske Brittany Moeske
    2015 Robert M. Auld Scholarship Winner
  • 2014 Winner: Sean McHugh
  • 2013 Winner: Nick Delehanty
The Association of NYS Youth Courts, Inc. Scholarship
  • 2017 Winner: Awab Shawkat Awab Shawkat
    2017 The Association of NYS Youth Courts, Inc. Scholarship Winner
    & Unnas Hussain Unnas Hussain
    2017 The Association of NYS Youth Courts, Inc. Scholarship Winner
  • 2016 Winner: Sophia Casabonne Sophia Casabonne
    2016 Robert M. Auld Scholarship and The Association of NYS Youth Courts, Inc. Scholarship Winner
  • 2014 Winner: Bettina Lu

Youth Court Directory

Director / program assistant
POSITION NAME CONTACT NUMBER
Director Violet Palombo (518) 782-2638 | E-Mail
Program Assistant Makenzie Michel (518) 782-2638
Advisory Board
NAME AFFILIATION
Patricia M. Donohue Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives, Retired
Michael J. Elmendorf II Associated General Contractors NYS, LLC
Honorable Nicholas J. Greisler Retired Colonie Town Justice/Attorney
Patrice S. Lockart Colonie Police Department, Retired
William C. Pericak Jenner & Block/Attorney
Diane R. Scaringe NYS Unified Court System, Retired
Supporters
NAME AFFILIATION
Albany County Probation Department
Jonathan Buhner Superintendent, South Colonie Schools
Gaspar Castillo, Jr. Attorney At Law
Joseph Corr Superintendent, North Colonie Schools
Barbara Cottrell Retired Assistant United States Attorney
Honorable Peter Crummey Colonie Town Justice
Liz DelTorto Clerk, Town of Colonie
Richard Hartunian United States Attorney for the Northern District of NY
Honorable Bernard Malone Whiteman, Osterman, & Hanna LLP
Honorable Gerard Maney Albany County Family Court Judge
Honorable Norman Massry Colonie Town Justice
Dr. Maureen McLeod Russell Sage College
Dr. Russ Moore Principal, Shaker Junior High School
Richard Murphy Principal, Shaker High School
Tom Nicholson Principal, Sand Creek Middle School
Chris Robilotti Principal, Colonie High School
Honorable Andrew Sommers Colonie Town Justice
Thomas Spina, Jr. Assistant United States Attorney
Honorable Mary Sweeney Retired Colonie Town Justice
David Wetzel Principal, Lisha Kill Middle School

Financial And In-Kind Supporters Of The Colonie Youth Court

If you would like to make a donation to Colonie Youth Court you can send it to:

Colonie Youth Court
312 Wolf Road
Latham, NY 12110

or call (518) 782-2638 for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Youth Court?

Youth Court is a voluntary alternative to the criminal justice system for young people who have committed a crime or an offense. The goal of Youth Court is to intervene in early anti-social, delinquent, and criminal behavior, and to reduce the incidence and prevent the escalation of such behavior. Youth Court strives to promote feelings of self esteem and a desire for self improvement, and to foster a healthy attitude towards rules and authority. Youth Court also offers a law-related education program for young people who seek to become members of the court.

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 evidence relevant to sentencing, deliberates, and passes sentence. Sentences typically include community services and counseling, and stress rehabilitative goals.

WHO PARTICIPATES IN YOUTH COURT PROCEEDINGS?

Youth Court proceedings involve an offender, jurors, and members in the roles of judges, prosecutors, defender, clerk/bailiff, and jury foreperson. Each of these individuals is under age eighteen. An adult serves as Coordinator. The offender must complete the sentence imposed by the jury, and in addition, must sit as a juror on at least one, and possibly several, cases of other offenders. The remaining jurors are drawn from any young people who wish to volunteer. Jurors do not take a course of instruction. Rather, they hear and see the evidence, listen to instructions from the judge, retire to deliberate in private, and agree on a sentence.

WHAT TYPES OF CASES ARE HEARD IN YOUTH COURT?

Cases are generally referred by judges, police, and probation departments to the Coordinator, who accepts cases meeting established criteria. Typical cases that may be heard in Youth Court include shoplifting, criminal mischief, larceny, and vandalism.

WHAT DOES THE JURY DECIDE?

The jury may impose a sentence that includes community service, restitution (monetary or in-kind), and attendance at classes or counseling sessions. The jury cannot sentence any youth to a detention facility or jail.

What are Youth Court membership requirements?

Members of Youth Court consist of young people who have successfully completed a multi-week law related education training program. Areas of instruction include an overview of the criminal justice jurisdiction, and operation of youth court, the penal laws, the consequences of crime, and sentencing issues, including aggravation and mitigating circumstances, rehabilitation as a goal, and the nature and type of evidence that is admissible and probative in sentencing. The training program concludes with mocking hearings to prepa members for participation in Youth Court proceedings. Youth Court members will assume the following roles, on a rotating basis.

  • JUDGE: Presides over the sentencing hearing, explains the criminal charge to the jury, instructs the jury on what evidence and factors to consider in determining a sentence, and sentences the offender in accordance with the jury's verdict.
  • PROSECUTOR: Represents the interests of the people of the community, investigates the circumstances of the offense and background of the offender, presents evidence at the sentencing hearing, and makes a sentencing recommendation to the jury.
  • DEFENDER: Represents the interests of the offender, investigates the circumstances of the offense and background of the offender, presents evidence at the sentencing hearing, including mitigating evidence, and makes a sentencing recommendation to the jury.
  • VICTIM ADVOCATE: Represents the rights and interests of the victim, is responsible solely to the needs of the victim, and acts as a liaison between the victim and the youth court process.
  • JURY FOREPERSON: Leads deliberations of the jury, ensures participation of all jurors, and that all appropriate sentencing factors are addressed, mediates disputes among jurors, calls for a vote during deliberations, and announces the jury's verdict.
  • CLERK/BAILIFF: Maintains accurate records of court proceedings, ensures smooth operation of court and administers oaths.
WHAT BENEFITS ARE OBTAINED AND WHAT RIGHTS ARE WAIVED BY THE OFFENDERS?

By agreeing to proceed in Youth Court, an offender obtains certain benefits, and waives certain rights that otherwise would attach in traditional criminal justice proceedings. Benefits include a decision by a jury of peers aimed at assisting the young person in desisting from criminal conduct, and an opportunity to participate positively in the criminal justice system, rather than as an object of that system. Rights waived in Youth Court may include the right to an attorney, to a trial for determination of guilt, and to request a closed proceeding (for young people under age sixteen).

Who presides over the Youth Court program?

Youth Court is supervised, and daily operations are overseen, by a Director. The Director works with offenders, families, jurors, members, law enforcement agencies, and others in the community to ensure that Youth Court is effective in its mission to be constructive, rehabilitative, and educational. An advisory board and a board of directors assist in this mission and in formulating operational procedure and policy. The Director of Youth Court is Violet Palombo and she can be reached at (518) 782-2638.

Juror Registration

Interested in becoming a juror?

If you are in Grades 7-12 and are a Town of Colonie resident download the form.

Download form

Membership Survey

Are you a former Youth Court member?

We'd love to hear from you!

Submit a Survey