Positive Power

Juvenile and family court judges play a critical role in the lives of youth and families who come into contact with the courts. As part of the SOS Project, CJJ released POSITIVE POWER: Exercising Judicial Leadership to Prevent Court Involvement and Incarceration of Non-Delinquent Youth, a brief that profiled nine judges who have worked to improve the lives of children, youth, their families, and communities. These juvenile and family court judges have established alternatives to court involvement and confinement for youth engaged in behaviors identified to the courts as status offenses. While some changed their approach to status offenses because of legislative mandates, others acted on their own initiative when they realized that confinement was at best ineffective, and at worst harmful to the very children they were seeking to protect. All of these judges are dedicated to ensuring that youth who have unaddressed needs are protected from stigma, marginalization, and exposure to delinquency and criminalization. By diverting them away from the courts and detention, they seek to ensure that vulnerable youth are given access, at home and in their communities, to the resources they need to live healthy, productive lives.

The Honorable Karen Ashby

Denver, Colorado

Judge Karen Ashby was appointed to the bench in 1998 and is the presiding Juvenile Court Judge in Denver, Colorado. The Denver Juvenile Court is a constitutionally separate court from the rest of the state circuit court system with jurisdiction over dependency and neglect, truancy, delinquency, paternity, and child support cases. "In all that I do," says Judge Ashby, "my goal is to identify what is really best practice, not just what seems reasonable or intuitive or feels good or feels right - particularly in crisis situation." Read More

The Honorable Joan Byer

Jefferson County, Kentucky

Judge Joan Byer has served as a Circuit Court Judge in the Family Division since 1996. Named Louisville Bar Association Judge of the Year in 2002, Judge Byer has received numerous recognitions as a jurist and community leader. Judge Byer previously served as President of the National Truancy Prevention Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the needs of challenged school-aged youth. Among her published articles is "A Model Response to Truancy Prevention: The Louisville Truancy Court Diversion Project," Juvenile and Family Court Journal, Winter 2003. Read More

The Honorable Frances Doherty

Washoe County, Nevada

Judge Frances Doherty is presiding judge of the Family Court of the Second Judicial District in Washoe County, Nevada. The Second Judicial Family Court has jurisdiction over delinquency cases. Judge Doherty was first appointed a Master with jurisdiction over juvenile delinquency cases in 1997, and elected to the District Court in 2003. Read More

The Honorable J. Brian Huff

Jefferson County, Alabama

Judge Brian Huff is Presiding Judge of the Jefferson County Family Court in Birmingham, Alabama. Judge Huff was appointed to the bench in 2005 and elected to his first full term in 2006. Jefferson County Family Court has jurisdiction over dependency and neglect, delinquency, paternity, and child support cases. Judge Huff presides over several specialized dockets, including Truancy, Juvenile Drug Court, Gun Court, and the Return to Aftercare Program (RAP). Read More

The Honorable Barbara Quinn

State of Connecticut

Judge Barbara Quinn is currently Chief Court Administrator for the State of Connecticut, responsible for the administrative operations of Connecticut's judicial branch. Prior to this appointment, Judge Quinn served as chief administrative judge for juvenile matters from 2005-2007, where she oversaw the division responsible for hearing Connecticut's juvenile justice and child protection cases. Prior to that, Judge Quinn was assigned to the Regional Child Protection Session of the Superior Court for Juvenile Matters in Middletown, CT, serving as its presiding judge from 1999-2001. Read More

The Honorable David E. Stucki

Stark County, Ohio

Judge David Stucki retired in 2011 as Senior Judge of the Family Court in Stark County, Ohio, where he served for 19 years. The Stark County Family Court has jurisdiction over dependency and neglect, delinquency, paternity and child support cases, as well as juvenile traffic violations. Judge Stucki was first appointed to the family court in 1992 and elected to his first full term in 1994. Read More

The Honorable Steven C. Teske

Clayton County, Georgia

Judge Steve Teske is Chief Judge of the Juvenile Court in Clayton County, Georgia. Judge Teske was appointed to the juvenile bench in 1999 and became Chief Judge in 2009. The Clayton County Juvenile Court has jurisdiction over delinquency, dependency and neglect, paternity and child support cases. "When sitting on the bench or deciding diversion and informal adjustment policies for the court, I look back on my own childhood," says Judge Teske. "Adolescents sometimes do stupid things, and I did plenty of stupid things as a teenager. But I was never arrested or referred to juvenile court, and today I am a judge." He adds, "Why is it that most of the cases referred to my court are kids...who were never arrested or referred in my day?" Read More

The Honorable Linda Tucci Teodosio

Summit County, Ohio

Judge Linda Tucci Teodosio is the only juvenile court judge in Summit County, Ohio. She has jurisdiction over dependency and neglect, delinquency and child support cases, as well as juvenile traffic violations. Judge Teodosio was first elected to the municipal court in 1998, and then to the juvenile court in 2003. Summit County does not utilize locked confinement for youth charged with status offenses. In 2010, Judge Teodosio was honored with the Models for Change Champion for Change Award from the MacArthur Foundation. Read More

The Honorable Dennis Yule

Benton-Franklin Counties, Washington

Judge Dennis Yule was appointed to the Washington State Superior Court for the Benton-Franklin Counties in 1986 and re-elected every four years until his retirement in 2009. During his tenure, Judge Yule served as Supervising Judge for the court's juvenile division, where he was responsible for setting polices and procedures, overseeing three court commissioners dealing with delinquency and dependency cases, and working closely with the juvenile court administrator. Reflecting on his former practice of detaining youth charged with status offenses, Judge Yule says, "I began wondering if I was more a part of the problem than the solution." Read More


These varied examples illustrate how efforts to deinstitutionalize status offenders can overcome geographic, demographic, and ideological barriers. Four elements of effective judicial leadership emerge:

  • Demand for Evidence-Based Approaches. Each judge is determined to change judicial practice in a manner consistent with the best available data of what produces favorable outcomes for youth.
  • Balancing of Interests. While each judge is motivated to identify alternatives to detention, they also take preservation and protection of community safety into account.
  • Reliance on Partnerships. Each judge recognizes the value of bringing partners together to develop community-based, family-connected continuums of care for youth.
  • Use of Judicial Convening Power. Each judge leverages his/her powers to convene and/or participate in cross-system collaborations.