Teen Court is a court-approved diversion program that uses a restorative justice approach to address criminal behavior in the community. Participating students, acting as prosecutors, defense attorneys and jury members, question and sentence their peers with constructive penalties such as education and community service, helping them avoid a criminal record while being held accountable by their own peers.

“In my experience, teen court works because youth are being held accountable by their own peers,” said Alexandra Lux ’11, ’20, director of Lawrence County Teen Court. “Teen Court also helps volunteering teens gain valuable insight into the legal system and how it works.”  

Teen courts have been established in seven locations throughout the state, providing legal system experience to teenagers who volunteer and inspiring some to pursue careers in the legal field.

At the mock trial competition, Teen Court volunteers will compete against other Teen Court programs in the state and learn from these courts to improve their home programs. Participating teens will partake in an individual competition focusing on prosecution and defense attorney skills as well as a group competition where programs compete against each other.

In addition to the competition, Teen Court participants will also hear from Knudson School of Law Dean Neil Fulton, J.D., listen to a presentation from USD’s Moot Court team, engage in a panel discussion and tour USD’s campus.

This is the first time the event has been held in five years. Historically, it has been held in Pierre during legislative session; however, the competition was moved to USD’s law school to allow students to practice alongside law professionals.

“The goal in moving the competition to Vermillion was to give our volunteers the opportunity to learn from the professionals in the legal sphere themselves,” Lux said. “What better place to do it than at the Knudson School of Law.”

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