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Teen court seeks help

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Reach for Youth, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that oversees teen court programs in Marion and Johnson counties and over 250 teen court volunteers, must raise $15,000 by March 1 to keep afloat.

Indianapolis attorney and board member Jimmie McMillian, who has been involved for nine years and has volunteered as a judge in teen court, is asking people to give at least $10, which he said can make a difference for the "pee wee league for the legal profession."

Teen court is a diversion program for juveniles accused of non-violent crimes. Their peers - volunteers age 10-17 - serve as attorneys and jurors. Participants in teen court are mentored by lawyers and law school students. Juvenile offenders often become involved with teen court as volunteers, while offender and non-offender volunteers may ultimately decide to become attorneys.

"For kids in our community who have an interest in the law, this helps them in a very real way," he said. "If that doesn't inspire attorneys, I don't know what will."

(Indiana Lawyer published a story about teen court programs around Indiana in the Dec. 13 - 26, 2006, issue, "A jury of their peers.")

Reach for Youth is also waiting for responses about grants they've applied for. Because it remains unknown when they will receive grant money or how much they will receive, every bit helps, he said.

"Our staff took a 10 percent pay cut," he added. "We have already been reducing staff, cutting back cutting back cutting back, and now we're at bare bones."

In response to his initial e-mail sent in early February, McMillian has received a few donations and at least nine calls from parents asking how their children can get involved.

Anyone interested in learning more about Reach for Youth or getting involved may contact Christopher Nunn, Reach for Youth Inc., 3505 N. Washington Blvd., Indianapolis, IN 46208. Checks may be made payable to "Reach for Youth, Inc."

The organization can also accept donations by credit card. Call Nunn at (317) 920-5900. The Web site for Reach for Youth, Inc. is http://www.reachforyouth.org.

When asked what would happen if the organization doesn't raise $15,000, McMillian said, "The board hasn't made a decision yet. I'm looking at this like I'm going to get this money. I'm not entertaining failure. ... I can't believe we can't get $15,000 out of the Indianapolis legal community."

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  2. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  3. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  4. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

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