King County District Court Expands Youth Traffic Court on Eastside

By Troy Brown, Communication Manager, King County District Court  

East King County Youth Traffic Court provides teen drivers with an alternative to fines, while helping educate them and their peers on the justice system

King County District Court has expanded its Youth Traffic Court Program from Redmond to the broader Eastside. The East King County Youth Traffic Court is a student-led organization that works with district court to hear real cases of traffic citations issued to 16- and 17-year olds, offering them an alternative to the traditional justice system. Cases are handled by youth “attorneys,” a youth “judge” and a youth “jury,” making it the ultimate jury of your peers for teenagers.

The expanded youth court handles eligible traffic citations issued by Bellevue police, Duvall police, Redmond police, Sammamish police, King County Sheriff’s Office and Washington State Patrol. During the ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic, cases are heard via Zoom teleconference and supervised by Judge Michael Finkle. After the pandemic ends, the court anticipates resuming youth traffic court hearings at its Redmond and Issaquah Courthouses under Judge Finkle’s supervision and at its Bellevue Courthouse under Judge Jill Klinge.

Students in the program practice the principals of restorative justice in evaluating other students’ traffic violations, under a King County District Court judge’s guidance. The process provides a collaborative atmosphere in which everybody involved comes to a joint conclusion about the most appropriate disposition for the case.

One 16-year old student who had received a ticket from the Redmond Police for speeding and not having her headlights on, remarked after participating in her youth court hearing and being assigned 30 hours of community service and writing a 250-word essay that she was “more aware of the harm I can cause while driving, and to be more careful.”

Beyond benefiting teens who receive traffic citations, East King County Youth Traffic Court provides high-school students with valuable real-world courtroom experience. “Youth court members learn decision making skills, compassion, how to work with others they do not go to school with, and a little about the law,” said King County District Court Judge Michael Finkle.

Students in grades 9 to 12 who are interested in being part of the East King County Youth Traffic Court team can contact the court by email at KCDCYouthTrafficCourt@kingcounty.gov.

About King County District Court

King County District Court is the largest court of limited jurisdiction in Washington State, processing approximately 200,000 matters per year. The district court operate at 10 locations throughout King County:  Auburn, Bellevue, Burien, Issaquah, King County Courthouse (Seattle), King County Jail (Seattle jail calendars only), Redmond, Maleng Regional Justice Center (Kent), Shoreline and Vashon Island (one day per month). For more information visit www.kingcounty.gov/courts/district-court.aspx.