- Title: Director
E. Joseph Wehrfritz
Mary Ann Hobar
Description & Duties
The Orchard Park Youth Court was founded in the 1990s to help first-time juvenile offenders reform their lives. When a person age 18 or younger is arrested by the police in Orchard Park, he/she can make the decision with his/her legal guardian(s) to appear in Youth Court rather than Erie County Family Court in downtown Buffalo. The program is entirely student-run, so the attorneys, bailiff, and judge are all young adults between eighth and twelfth grade; the Executive Staff is also made up of students. Juvenile defendants are therefore more comfortable appearing in Youth Court and have a positive experience with the justice system. Furthermore, the judge assigns each defendant a specified amount of community service and restitution (if applicable) instead of more severe consequences, which help to facilitate rehabilitation.
Youth Court’s unique structure and guidelines are proven to reduce recidivism rates among its juvenile defendants while simultaneously providing its members with invaluable legal and leadership experience. Many Youth Court students go on to pursue successful careers in law, politics, medicine, education, and business. Youth Court alumni return each year to mentor the program’s current group of students.
Applications to join the Orchard Park Youth Court are made available to students every 3-4 years, and our admissions process is publicized at local schools. The most recent application period closed in January 2020, so our next one is tentatively scheduled for the fall of 2022. Please check back here around that time to receive any updates.
Resources for Current Members:
To confirm a court shadowing appointment for OP Court, please call the clerks directly at: (716) 662-6415.