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February 02, 2023

Midyear 2023: Four innovators of juvenile justice on what works

A panel of four current and former judges will discuss the latest innovations in juvenile justice at the upcoming American Bar Association Midyear Meeting in New Orleans.

The program “Dare to be Different: Think Outside the Box to Improve Juvenile Justice in Your Community will be held Friday, Feb. 3, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. It is co-sponsored by the ABA Judicial Division and Criminal Justice Section and will feature:

  • Ernestine Gray, retired Juvenile Court judge from Orleans Parish, Louisiana, and current chair of the ABA Judicial Division. During her 36 years on the bench, Gray found ways to keep children from being taken from their homes unless absolutely necessary. Her court developed programs to keep cases out of the formal system and provided mentoring and community involvement programs as alternatives to secure detention for girls and boys involved with the court. 
  • Judge Richard Ginkowski of the Municipal Court in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. He will discuss how municipal courts are a community-based alternative to the juvenile justice system for truancy and low-level first offenders. 
  • Judge Ranord Darensburg of the Juvenile Traffic Court in Orleans Parish, Louisiana. Trained in psychology and social work, Darensburg presides over an innovative teen peer court program. 
  • Stephanie Domitrovich, a retired judge in the Court of Common Pleas in Erie County, Pennsylvania. Domitrovich advocates for a model unified family court where one judge deals with a family as a unit.

The program aims to inspire judges and other advocates to think about early interventions that could keep children in courts from graduating to more serious judicial involvement.

Participants will learn the importance of keeping children accused of being neglected or delinquent in their homes unless removal is absolutely necessary, and strategies to accomplish community protection while preserving families.

Speakers also will discuss how juvenile court judges can develop alternatives to secure detention of juveniles while protecting the community, and how early intervention programs using community services help troubled children and families resolve counterproductive behaviors.