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Law interns participate with the City of Austin teen court

Graphic by Nicole Ocampo via Adobe Spark

Graphic by Nicole Ocampo via Adobe Spark

Nicole Ocampo, Staff Writer

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When senior Jessica Brownlee worked as a prosecutor in teen court at the City of Austin, the cases are real with real consequences.

That’s different with the mock trial cases she has been involved with as one of the law internship students.

In teen court, the cases are typically misdemeanor offenses, or curfew violations. The punishments range from four to 24 hours of community service, and/or being enlisted to serve as jurors in two to four future teen court cases, she said.

“It was a really fun experience because it allowed me to prosecute real cases,” Brownlee said. “In mock trial we also got to practice this role, but it wasn’t a real case where the defendant was a real person sitting in front of you.”

Brownlee is one of five students who have participated in the teen court program this year, which is run by the City of Austin’s municipal court. Former law teacher Robyn Katz, who left Akins in February, encouraged her law intern students to volunteer with this program so they would get real world experience.

Senior Adrian Ochoa, who started participating in teen court in November, said he has come to enjoy gaining experience being an attorney in these trials.

“I remember the first time I visited the program I was nervous but I’ve grown to love it,” Ochoa said. “Being able to speak for kids my age and younger who need help keeping criminal charges off of their record to be able to have a good future.”

These teen attorneys work with mentors that are practicing attorneys themselves.

The student lawyers are given a script to say aloud in court in the beginning, but as time passes the mentors give advice and tips on how they handle their cases. Both teen attorneys give their own final statements.

There is also a jury made up of teenagers that are responsible for making the final decision on what the punishment should be.

The mentors and real judges also give tips to the teen attorneys on do’s and don’ts and ideas to keep in mind when presenting and defending a case.

Ochoa said the real attorneys and judges have had positive things to say about how the Akins students have performed in teen court.

“All of the judges and lawyers were extremely surprised with me and other law interns since we were so acquainted with a courtroom, but that is because we participated in Mock Trial,” he said.

Senior Marquis Hampton said he enjoys getting to represent other people in these cases.

“(I) personally had problems in the past and someone helped me stay out of that problem,” he said. “So me being able to do the same, I know where they come from.”

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