Teen Court Served With Gruber’s Justice
Aside from being dedicated to ensuring the highest quality of representation to his clients, Mr. Allen Gruber also dedicates his time to bettering our community by presiding as a judge for Miami-Dade County Teen Court. Teen Court is a program of the Miami-Dade Juvenile Justice System whereby teenagers charged with lesser criminal offenses (e.g. theft, vandalism, possession of marijuana) are given the opportunity to avoid any criminal offenses appearing on their record as a result of their successful completion of the corrective sanctions placed on them by the Teen Court.
Teen Court is shaped by the traditional roles found in trial-level courts (e.g. a Prosecutor representing the state, an attorney representing the defending party, and a jury of the accused’s peers) with a slight twist. All of the attorneys and jury members are also teenagers! Prosecution and Defense attorneys undergo training on the aims of the Teen Court program, and learn several rules of evidence prior to representing either the State or the Participant. Jury members are generally future participants of the programs or members of an associated group that regularly volunteers its time to serve our community by participating in Teen Court.
Despite some apparent similarities with standard legal tribunals, Teen Court largely differs in its role from traditional forums of criminal dispute in terms of its purpose. Whereas the role of criminal courts in society is to determine the guilt of a person, Teen Court focuses on reaching constructive sanctions for those who have been found guilty or who have already admitted guilt, and have agreed to have their sanctions determined by their peers through participation in the program.
In other words, the purpose of Teen Court is not to serve as a Trier of Fact and Law, rather to weigh the remorse of its participants in proportion to the constructive sanctions placed on these participants in order to help them better themselves as individuals. Constructive sanctions rendered upon participants commonly include: verbal apologies, essays that contemplate the wrongdoing(s) in question, community service hours, and curfews. Thus, the sharp distinction between Teen Court and standard criminal courts is that the issue being argued at Teen Court is really the severity of the sanctions that will be placed upon the Participant. The method by which the attorneys and jury of Teen Court reach their decisions, however, follows the procedural patterns set out in standard courts of law.
Trial format remains loyal to traditional Florida criminal procedure. The State presents its opening statements, followed by the Defense. Immediately thereafter, witnesses are brought to the stand to be direct-examined and cross-examined by both parties. Parents and audience members watch attentively as objections are raised. Once the examinations are completed, the trial proceeds to the closing arguments of both parties and ends with the rebuttal of the State. The jury is sent into a separate room to deliberate the sanctions that will be placed on the Participant, and returns with its verdict. The decision of the jury may be modified by the judge; however, these decisions are final and must be complied with by the Participant.
Teen Court meets weekly at courthouses all throughout Miami-Dade County to further its purpose in providing an alternative means of correction to individuals who are still in the developing stages of their lives but have violated the law. Mr. Gruber views his participation in this forum as a means of teaching the younger generations about the importance of understanding the respect for law and as a method by which he can encourage the practice of law in young aspiring lawyers. Mr. Gruber acknowledges the tireless efforts of Frank Tarrau, Training Specialist, and Shirley Sieger, Juvenile Services Specialist, in making the Teen Court program nothing short of a total success. Mr. Gruber fully espouses the purpose and mission of Teen Court, and prides himself in being a Teen Court Judge.
This article is written by Florida attorneys and only considers Florida law in place at the time of publication. This article should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice and one should always consult with an attorney in their state before making any legal decisions.
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