State trial courts are very busy places. San Francisco's courts house many judges and commissioners who are simultaneously presiding in many courtrooms over many matters. Most courtrooms are open to the public, so you may walk around to find a proceeding of interest. (The major exception is juvenile court, which in San Francisco is housed at 375 Woodland Avenue, not in the Civic Center.) The legal newspapers list the dockets for each courtroom, but with little information about the nature of the cases being heard. In San Francisco, pretrial motions are heard by the judges assigned to the Law and Motion Department; when cases are ready for trial, they are then assigned to a courtroom for trial. An exception is complex civil cases, which are assigned to the judges in the complex litigation department to handle from filing through completion.
Criminal matters are heard at the Hall of JusticeMonday throughFriday from 8 AM to 4:30 PM.
Trials, almost all civil, are in session in multiple courtrooms on any given day. The Law and Motion Department (Departments 301 and 302)hears pretrial (and sometimes post trial) motions every day from 8 AM- 4 PM.
For information, call 415.551.4000.
The court recommends that observers arrive early in the day, as that is the best time to see the court at its busiest. For calendar information call Valerie McGrew, Court Manager, at 415.551.3908.Or, for general information, call 415.551.3900.
Not your average juvenile justice! Youth Courts are diversion programs that offer a different approach to keeping youth out of legal trouble. The juriesare made up of teens, and offenders are represented by teen attorneys. Youth Courts are based on a restorative justice model rather than a punitive one. Sentences usually involve community service, as well as other activities as determined by the peer-jury. These may include counseling, letters of apology, or anger management programs, among others. Although some youth courts determine innocence and guilt, generally, to participate in a youth court program,the offender must ake responsibility for his or her actions by admitting guilt.Once their sentences are served,offenders' records are wiped clean, giving them a second chance and keeping them out of juvenile hall.
In the Bay Area, there are two Youth Courts that are open to the public, both a short drive from San Francisco.
Marin County Youth Court
All Marin County Youth Court trials use a format in which the jury asks questions of the respondent. Most cases involve drug and alcohol offenses, and in such cases the respondent is not represented by an attorney. In cases where the offense has created a victim, teen attorneys represent both the respondent and the victim or community at large.
The Marin County Youth Court convenes every Tuesday at 4:30 PMat the Marin County Superior Court, which is located in the Marin County Civic Center. Cases are usually heard in Courtrooms M and K. Marin County Superior Court is located at:
3501 Civic Center Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903
map and directions
For information about Marin County Youth Court, contact the program coordinator, Julie Lanzarin, at 415.459.4875, or read its blog.