Students spend time as lawyers

Io Hemingway, Staff, 6th hour OTMS Productions

You’ve heard of adult lawyers, but have you heard of 13-year-old lawyers? Meet Xiao and Estelle Nyugen, who are twins and youth court lawyers.

According to the Jackson County Youth Court website, Youth Court is a court run by 13-18 year-olds, and is a peer court for juveniles. Estelle Nyugen is an 8th grader and works in youth court as a defensive lawyer.

“[I’m a lawyer] because I know that most of the time the legal system is flawed, and as someone of a minority (being queer and of color), I want to help make it more fixed,” Estelle said.

According to their website, the primary goal of the Independence Youth Court is to reduce incidents of juvenile crime, divert offending youth from the Juvenile Justice System and to provide an alternative to the Jackson County Family court process and further contact with the police. Xiao is also an 8th grader and works as a lawyer alongside Estelle.

“I wanted to be a lawyer due to my wanting to help people,” Xiao said.

In Youth Court, everyone is a youth, including prosecution, defense, judges, and the jury. There are a few adults to supervise, but other than them, everyone is a youth. Judges are lenient towards the defense, Estelle said that prosecution winning hardly ever happens. If prosecution wins, the defendant may be sentenced to 10-100 hours of community service work, made to write an essay or apology letter, or be given appropriate classes on the subject of the crime, according to the website.

“[Losing a case] can be two things, depending on my client and their charges,” Xiao said. “If the client didn’t do anything wrong, then I would feel upset on losing, but if the client obviously did do something wrong, then I wouldn’t feel too bad about it.”

Attorney training goes over the length of two weeks according to the website, and is followed by a quiz, then a bar exam. The bar was “stressful but fun” according to Estelle.

“[The judges are lenient to defense] because, like mentioned, before we want to give the juvenile a second chance.” Estelle said. “That would mean not having an extremely harsh punishment, but that doesn’t mean that the punishment is easy.”

Xiao and Estelle found out about Youth Court at the beginning of the school year, through announcements.