For a number of years the youth employment program known as Courts Are Us has marked the official start of the summer season in Tucson.
The program was started after Judge Norman Fenton retired from the bench in 1992. Social unrest in southern California and elsewhere led to racially inspired riots and the images in news reports by the media. Judge Fenton concluded that it was imperative to find a way to educate young people in our community about the courts and the legal system.
Early on, a partnership was established with Tucson Youth Development to provide jobs to 30 teens. In recent years, student participants in the program has shifted to Pima County Community Services, Employment and Training. In addition to jobs at superior court, Courts Are Us participants have worked at the office of the Clerk of the Superior Court, the Pima County Consolidated Justice Courts, Tucson City Court, the Pima County Attorney's Office, the Pima County Legal Defender's Office and the Pima County Adult Probation Department.
The program usually starts the first week of June and ends seven weeks later in July. The students are paid minimum wage for 30 hours of work and classroom learning. Each student is assigned a supervisor who monitors their work, as well as provides training and instruction in the basic skills necessary for the students to perform the tasks to which they have been assigned. There are some supervisors who have participated in the program for each of its nine years of existence while others have been involved for only a year or two.
Two hours of each week are devoted to learning opportunities regarding various aspects of the court. This includes an overview of the court, a tour of the Office of the Clerk of the Superior Court, Pretrial Services, adult probation, juvenile court, court reporters and mental health examinations of defendants. The final training session is a mock trial where the students volunteer to play the various roles from the judge, the attorneys and others. The students playing the judge and the attorneys are required to schedule meetings with a member of the bench.
The Courts Are Us students also have opportunities to learn about the courts and the legal system through interaction with lawyers in the community who serve as mentors.
For more information contact the community relations office at 724-4264.