Lincoln Law School of San Jose’s
Peer Court Program

Peer Court’s Driving Purpose

Stemming from a deep-rooted community need to mentor youth away from cycles of recrimination, Lincoln’s Peer Court program began in 2011 as a way to help divert first-time youth offenders from deeper involvement in the juvenile justice system. Relying entirely on a dedicated group of certified volunteer attorneys and jurors, Peer Court contributes to a more restorative juvenile justice system. To that end, participants follow a client-intensive plan to promote an insightful and meaningful experience within the legal process.

By highlighting the benefits of peer-based growth, Peer Court focuses on strengthening the skills of all referred youth through specifically tailored interventions assigned by the student jury. A volunteer Superior Court Judge or Commissioner presides over all trials.

Throughout the Peer Court process, referred teens learn the importance of accountability and personal growth. To further these experiences, it is the Peer Court’s hope that the youth will return to the program in order to have their confidence bolstered by the expertise of the county judges and mentors from Lincoln Law School and other community-based programs, schools, and staff.

How Peer Court Works

Gathering cases from throughout Santa Clara County, Peer Court accepts referrals for first-time violations such as theft, vandalism, assault and battery, misdemeanor offenses, and designated Education-Code violations.

The referred minor comes before Peer Court having acknowledged his or her involvement. In doing so, the youth begins a key step in the program’s restorative justice process, reflecting on the impact his or her actions have on his or her community, not just himself or herself. Before trial, the minor and his or her parent/guardian participate in an interview to review the Peer Court process, schedule a hearing, and meet with his or her assigned student advocates. Adult mentors from Lincoln Law School and Peer Court case managers support the teen volunteers throughout the process.

During the court session, after a teen clerk calls the case, the Judge explains the violation. The teen defense and prosecution advocates present facts to the jury through testimony, including available victims. After carefully listening to the facts, the peer jury deliberates the case and decides constructive and restorative interventions for the referred minor.

Once the referred minor completes his or her interventions, his or her case will be closed and a completion letter is provided to the referred minor and his or her parent/guardian. If the referred minor does not complete his or her interventions or rejects the peer jury interventions, his or her case is returned to the referring agency.

For additional information about the Lincoln Law School of San Jose Peer Court Program, contact:

The Peer Court Advisory Board
c/o Lincoln Law School of San Jose
384 S 2nd St, San Jose, CA 95113
Email: [email protected]