Serving time: Youth Court members, judges sworn inBy JOSEPH ROBERTIAPeninsula Clarion The Kenai Peninsula Youth Court swore in 21 new members and added nine new judges to its ranks March 8 at a ceremony at the Old Kenai Courthouse.
The Youth Court provides an alternative forum to the traditional judicial system for juvenile offenders. Juveniles are still defended, prosecuted and judged, in the same manner they would be in the traditional court system, except that everything is done by graduates of the Youth Court program.
"It's a good feeling to know we're doing something for the kids, both those serving the court and those being defended," said retired Superior Court Judge Charles Cranston.
The ceremony held special meaning for Cranston, who not only was sworn in himself as a Superior Court Judge in 1981 in that very courtroom, but who also was one of the volunteers responsible for the inception of the Kenai Peninsula Youth Court.
Cranston said it was formed in 1996 and modeled after the Anchorage Youth Court ? one of the oldest in the nation. In 1997 the first classes were started, and the success and popularity of the youth court have been growing ever since. Cranston still teaches several of the classes and said he still enjoys helping with the program.
"It's interesting to learn how the court system works," said Joel Ribbons, one of the teens sworn-in. "I'm starting out as an attorney, but I hope to be judge at some point."
Nora Ribbens, Joel's mother, was there for the event.
"I knew he could do it, and I'm extremely proud of him," she said. "He took it very seriously and worked hard to do it."
She went on to explain the detailed process the teens take learning about crimes, laws, defense and prosecution in order to obtain their position.
"I think these kids know more about the court system than most adults," she said.
Kirsten Hinz was excited by what she learned though the program and said she hopes to continue learning about law.
"It was a great experience and I think being an attorney would be fun," Hinz said.
However, she was still a bit unclear as to what path she would pursue after graduation.
"I want to be either a defense attorney or maybe an actor. I'm not sure which."
Several of the juveniles who have gone through the Youth Court have found it worth while to stick with the program.
Megan Kohler stuck with it and is now the Kenai Peninsula Court bar president and a judge. She said she was pleased with the turnout on Saturday and thought everyone involved had fun.
Rita Knorr, a chief judge, also has been involved in the program for quite a while. She said she first became interested more than four years ago after seeing a presentation at her high school in Nikiski.
"I thought it might be an interesting forum for stimulating debates," she said.
Those sworn in by Superior Court Judge Harold Brown included Kaitlyn Coval, Kari Daly, Kelly Eshelman, Breanna Giles, Ellen Holt, Haily Lipps-Devolld, Kirk Louthan, Sheila Oelrich, Tyler Smith, Shawn Turnbull, Haily Cox, Brad Denesen, Sasha Forbes, Kirsten Hinz, Chuck Kopp, Danielle Little, Ariel Mercier, Joel Ribbens, Wes Stephl, Alex West and Andrew White.
New judges sworn in were Bartas LaVecchia, Mercedes Hughes, Adam Demello, Kim Kurzendoerfer, Katie Ford, Thomas Adams, Amy Hundertmark, Ashley Myers and Rik Galley.
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