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Teen court designed to teach justice

July 15, 2009|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.VA. -- Morgan County Teen Court is ready to hold trials and is waiting for referrals from the prosecutor and probation officers, its coordinator said this week.

Charlie Willard, teen court coordinator, wants to hold one or two trials before school starts. He met with five students Tuesday to train and certify them.

Teen court is an alternative system of justice for seventh- to 12th-graders who are primarily first-time offenders of nonviolent crimes. It is legally binding, the offenders must volunteer and the offense will not result in a criminal record. Examples are underage drinking or tobacco use, shoplifting or vandalism, Willard has said.

Logan Reed, 14, a ninth-grader at Berkeley Springs High School, received training and participated as a jurist at a mock trial in June. Now, he wants to train as an attorney, he said.

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Logan likes being a Teen Court member.

"I want to try and help out the court system," Logan said.

Willard said the students can train for different skill levels. He trains the jurists, Morgan County Circuit Clerk Kim Jackson trains the teen court clerks, Morgan County Circuit Court bailiff Joe Butterworth trains the bailiffs and attorney Larry Schultz and other attorneys train the teen court plaintiff and defense attorneys.

Schultz participated as the mock trial judge and is looking forward to serving as judge in the future.

"The students did an excellent job, especially with their limited training," he said.

Hilary Trump, 17, a Berkeley Springs High School senior, participated as the defense attorney in the mock trial. She received help from Morgan County Prosecutor Debra MH McLaughlin and her uncle, attorney Charles Trump.

Hilary said she learned a lot from Teen Court.

"You feel pretty smart about the judicial system," she said.

Warm Springs Middle School eighth-grader McKayla Korrell, 14, and seventh-graders Haleigh Fields, Maggie Schultz and Kylea Hauser, all 12, received certification as teen court jurists.

"My mom said, 'I'm really proud of you for doing this and sticking to it,'" McKayla said.

"Stick with it and you might want to take more training in other areas," Willard said.

Willard wants to create pools of students to serve in each category so the same students will not be asked to participate in each trial and it will not conflict with their other activities.

About 15 students serve as jurists, attorneys, a clerk and a bailiff at each trial, he said.

Morgan County is the first county in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle to offer Teen Court.

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