National Municipal Court Survey
In the Fall of 2020, Community Advocacy Lab Clinic students, in collaboration with Juvenile Law Center, released a nationwide report on municipal courts.
The report, titled How Municipal Courts Rob America’s Youth: Injustice in the Lower Courts, provides a structural overview of municipal courts and their interactions with youth, detailing how states authorize these localized courts, their ability to adjudicate youth offenses, and the impact of municipal fines and fees levied on children. In conclusory remarks, the report explores potential avenues for future research and reform.
The students’ research revealed three key insights: First, there is room for the state, as well as local advocacy for reform. State legislative advocacy will be particularly important in states that mandate municipal courts. In states that provide municipalities more discretion, advocacy can also be directed at city councils. Second, municipal courts expose youth to significant harm without providing them with adequate procedural protections. And finally, while further research is needed, programs that divert youth from municipal court, create restorative alternatives and ensure procedural protections could provide effective alternatives.
The full report can be found here.