Project Citizen Competition: Judge Andrea Darvas

Project Citizen is a Project Citizen is an interdisciplinary curricular program for middle, secondary, and post-secondary students, youth organizations, and adult groups that promotes competent and responsible participation in local and state government.

The program helps participants learn how to monitor and influence public policy. In the process, they develop support for democratic values and principles, tolerance, and feelings of political efficacy.

Every year, I participate in the state competition in Olympia. This year, I worked with middle school students.

Judge Andrea Darvas delivers opening remarks for Project Citizen’s Middle School competition in Olympia.

Opening ceremonies in the Senate Dome, complete with a Color Guard from JBLM, were lovely.  I delivered opening remarks, telling my immigrant story: why my parents chose to leave Hungary as refugees shortly after I was born and why they chose to come to the US.  We believed in freedom of thought, belief, and speech, as well as our freedom to choose, and, when necessary, to make changes to, our government. 

“This is the most diverse group of students I have ever seen” Judge Andrea Darvas

Many of the students in attendance were immigrants themselves or children or grandchildren of immigrants.  I spoke of Tikkun Olam – the Jewish concept of healing the world and why this work is so important.  I showed a wristband I received at the Loren Miller Bar dinner and explained who Loren Miller was and why he mattered.  The wristband says “Believe in Miracles” and I wear it now for Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst who continues to battle cancer.

Each one of you is capable of miracles – making the world a more just, good, and fairer place. You have power – even as middle school students – to exercise that power to make needed changes in your schools and your communities.

Judge Andrea Darvas

Each participating class of middle school students chose a project.  One class chose school security, another chose lead in drinking water at the school, another chose the issue of dress codes, and two classes chose student stress and mental health. 

Evergreen students in front of their storyboard

The students brought storyboards to present their issue. The first storyboard panel explained the issue and why they chose it. The second presented alternative ways to address the issue – the benefits and challenges. The third panel spelled out the solution. The fourth panel was an action plan to implement the solution.

The students also prepared a binder for sources of information that didn’t make it onto the storyboards. The binders included the research, the other solutions, and the experts they consulted. Each panel of judges rated the storyboards on various detailed criteria.  Judges included retired teachers, people from the business world, lawyers, doctors, and others.  I think I was the only sitting judge, but I may be mistaken. My fellow judges were a school librarian, and a consumer credit finance person.

After we rated the story boards, we saw the kids in the Cherberg hearing rooms, where a panel of students gave prepared oral presentations on each of the 4 panels of their storyboards, and we had an opportunity to ask them follow up questions.

We ate pizza then participated in closing ceremonies in the Senate dome.

The winning team was from Evergreen Middle School in the Lake Washington school district, which by chance, was one of the two classes I was assigned to judge.  They chose lead in drinking water. The other class I was assigned to judge was from Yelm, and their chosen topic was school security. 

The winning Evergreen team from Lake Washington School District

It was a fantastic event and one I look forward to every year. Learn more about Project Citizen and please consider participation!

eQuality is more than a word

FACTS: LGBTQ+ youth are disproportionally represented in the legal system, more likely to engage in self-harm, and less likely to connect to useful and effective LGBTQ+ programs in their community.

MORE FACTS: LGBTQ+ youth may not know about services; professionals in their life may not know how to communicate with them in safe, affirming ways; professionals may not be aware of LGBTQ+ focused resources or not know how to ask organizations about services specifically for LGBTQ youth.

Challenge: Connect youth with LGBTQ+ friendly and knowledgeable services in their area. Teaching professionals to help make that happen.

Data point

43% LGBTQ youth report experiencing homeless at some point compared to 27% of their non-LGBTQ peers.

Since 2017, the Center for Children & Youth Justice and King County Juvenile Court Services have participated in the eQuality Project. The project aims to get court-involved LGBTQ+ youth get the support they need. T

The 16-month pilot project, launched in both King and Spokane counties, supported by the Raikes Foundation, the Pride Foundation, Seattle Goodwill, QLaw and many private individuals, set out to identify then bridge gaps.

Given that no data had ever been collected on LGBTQ youth in juvenile justice systems in King and Spokane counties, that was the first hurdle. How do we know who needs services? Ask. How do we ask? That is a lot tougher. How do we talk to service providers about their options? All good questions. And this was the foundation for moving forward.

  • Step One: Gather data.
    • Develop a questionnaire/protocol for asking all court involved youth about their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
  • Step Two: Speak their language.
    • Train staff to discuss identity in a safe and affirming way.
  • Step Three: Provide support
    • Connect youth to services designed to support LGBTQ youth.

Step One

The Questionnaire

Every youth entering the justice system is offered a short eight-question survey.

It includes age, ethnicity and several questions including: I consider myself to be (sexual orientation), I see myself as (gender including trans and questioning). Others see me as: more masculine, more feminine, don’t know, other.

These questions provide as close to a 360-degree view of the youth as possible.

Outcome: 296 youth participated. 10% reported as LGBTQ and 30% of those reported they did not know their gender expression (boy/girl/trans/non-conforming/queer/not-listed/don’t know/prefer not to answer).

Step Two

Train staff

Develop briefings and trainings for staff to offer this questionnaire and specific tools to engage in safe and affirming conversation.

The report shows staff report being least prepared to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity compared to other issues like abuse or neglect or homelessness.

Data point: I am comfortable asking all youth about their sexual orientation and gender identity – Before training 55% to after training 65%

Staff comment: “Loved it. Thank you for all the practice of pronouns and vocabulary words. It’s important to not just know that I should ask but how does it feel to ask? Loved the coming out activity. I have a whole new perspective on what some may be feeling”

Data point: 90% of trainees reported they were likely to use what they learned.  

Step Three

Learn about the variety and location of services throughout the county designed to support LGBTQ youth.  Connect youth to these services in a way in which they successfully use the services. Become more knowledgeable about laws and policies that protect LGBTQ youth (i.e. restroom laws by region or school district)

I am confident in my ability to provide appropriate services – pre-training 47% / post-training 67%

I understand the laws and policies that protect LGBTQ youth – pre-training 27% / post-training 60%

83% say they will assess a community organization for their acceptance of LBTBQ youth before referring a youth.

70% say they are likely or highly likely to ask youth about their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

Staff comment: “I used to think there were few resources available for working with LGBTQ+ youth which respected their individuality and personhood. Now I think there are a growing number of agencies/programs which service LGBTQ youth.”

Next Steps

King County Juvenile Court expands training, works toward a policy that integrates this training for all new JC employees and, eventually, identify a designated leader to ensure trainings and work continues. 

“From a leadership perspective, we now talk about diversity differently. It’s not just black and brown diversity. We have had some challenging conversations that make some people uncomfortable”

We sincerely thank CCJY and all the financial support that made this pilot project possible.

At the new Children and Family Justice Center, staff will be fully trained to connect our youth with the serves that best support them.

Rant & Rave: Widow receives jury summons for deceased husband

Here’s the Seattle Times “Rant & Rave” column.

We feel badly that this widow received a jury summons for her deceased husband of three years. That has to be tough especially after so long. Unfortunately, filing a death certificate with the Department of Health doesn’t automatically notify a county that an individual has passed. It can be frustrating that all government agencies don’t have a better mechanism for sharing information.

Here is how the rest of the process works:

WaTech (state agency) receives the Secretary of State (SOS) data for voter registration and the Department of Licensing data for licensed drivers and identicard holders.  WaTech merges the two databases to create the ‘merged’ jury source list.  WaTech then provides to Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC – state agency)  four files for each county:  merged, SOS alone, DOL alone, and a suspected duplicates file. 

The County Clerk or lead jury data coordinator for each county receives notice that the files are available for download via a secure web page.  These individuals receive access to the most current data in spring, and the data pull, merge, and post process happens once per year.  District courts or cities that need access to potential juror data contact the County Clerk or local jury source list lead for access to addresses that fall within their jurisdiction.  Some counties use a vendor to coordinate their jury pool activities.

We don’t know how long an individual may remain in the SOS data system or the DOL license & ident card holder databases.  It is not uncommon for deceased individuals to receive ballots, and the surviving spouse would need to contact SOS to report the passing of the individual.  Similarly, a driver’s license is valid for several years, so unless a surviving spouse notified DOL as well, the individual would remain in the DOL database that is passed to WaTech. 

Who is buying our children for sex?

Learn more at

KM: My name is Kelly Mangaracina and I am King County’s Commercially Sexually Exploited Children’s Task Force Coordinator and Program Manager. I attempt to keep everybody who is addressing the issue of sex trafficking of children at the table, talking to each other, coordinating our response so that we can provide a better continuum of care for our young people and hopefully not duplicate resources.

JH: Do we have a child sex trafficking problem in King County?

We have a child sex trafficking problem in Seattle, in King County, in Washington state, and in the United States. There is no community that is immune to this issue. if you look at the federal definition for purposes of kids, it’s a very simple definition.

You need to have a young person under the age of 18 and a commercial sex act and a commercial sex act is anytime there’s a sexual encounter in exchange for something of good or value. That goes up to a young person who is 17 and 364 days of age. As soon as the young person turns 18 we need to prove that they engaged in that commercial sex act because of force, fraud or coercion. But if they’re under the age of 18 we simply need to prove that there is a commercial sex act and that they are under the age of 18 and that is child sex trafficking. We don’t need to prove that there’s a third party pimp or trafficker simply that there is a commercial sex act and the individual is under the age of 18.

Anything of good or value is exchanged for a sexual encounter and that would be money, actual financial exchange for sexual intercourse. It would also be the exchange of drugs for that sexual encounter. It could be a sandwich in exchange for that sexual encounter. It could be a place to stay for that sexual encounter. So oftentimes what we have is youth who are experiencing homelessness, who are participating in what we could call survival sex. They’re doing what they need to do to survive and they are victims of child sex trafficking.

JH: Survival sex is a termed I’ve never heard before.

It is young people having sex in order to meet their basic survival needs, their needs for food, shelter, clothing, or I’d argue if there’s an addiction at play also for drugs.

For years we criminalized this behavior and called those young people prostitutes. We were charging them with prostitution for a crime that they couldn’t actually consent to do. We are charging 13- 14- 15-year-old children with prostitution. Fortunately we collectively have learned from our mistakes and we now see those children appropriately – as victims of commercial sexual exploitation, exploitation, victims of commercial sex trafficking. And those young people are seen as victims and no longer stigmatized or labeled as criminals in that way.

So here’s a little analogy that we like to use. If you have a 40-year-old soccer coach in 40-year-old soccer coach has a sexual relationship with 14-year-old on the soccer team and the 14-year-old says, but no, I love soccer coach. I want to be having sex with soccer coach. I’m down with this. This is what I want. Everybody universally as agreed that a crime has occurred that the soccer coach is the bad actor in this scenario and that Kiddo has done nothing wrong. Kiddo should not be charged with anything and all we should be doing is getting that young person connected to the services that they need.

 If we change that script a little, just a little bit, people get confused. Same 40-year-old soccer coach, same 14-year-old young person, exact same sex act occurring, but instead of the kid being on the soccer team, kid is now experiencing homelessness and at the end of the sex act kidded receives $50 in. Kid says, no, you don’t understand. I wanted to do it. I wanted the $50 I’m down with this. Historically, what we did is we said, oh, kid should be charged with prostitution. Kid should be put in juvenile detention. Kid is the bad actor in this scenario.

If kid on the soccer team can’t consent to this exploitation for love, why are you saying that kid who’s experiencing homelessness can consents of this exploitation for money? When in doubt, take the money out. If it’s exploitation, it’s exploitation. And we fortunately opened up our eyes and said, you know what? You’re right. A 14 year old cannot consent. They can’t consent for love. They cannot consent for money.

JH: Who are these men?

I like to say they’re not the creepy dude you cross the street to avoid. They look like everybody else. The data we have from the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and men charged with the commercial sexual abuse of a minor are men you would see as you walk down the streets of downtown Seattle, there are men in suits. They’re men in ties. They are men who are in business. They are in travel, they’re in it. They are in the military. They look like everybody else.

The cases that we do see with our prosecutor’s office are oftentimes well educated, privileged men who are buying access to young people who are doing what they need to do to survive. And we have a disproportionate number of privileged individuals buying are more marginalized individuals and to put a very striking, shocking spin to it and when we have a real child being harmed in charged cases from the King County prosecuting attorney’s Office on commercial sexual abuse of a minor 52% of the time that child is African American. The African American population of King County is nowhere close to 52%. This is some radical disproportionality in which we have privileged disproportionately white men buying access to our marginalized youth of color.

JH: How does that happen?

I work with an amazing survivor and she is mixed race and she made a comment one time that the men purchased her because she didn’t look like their daughter. They were specifically targeting the “Other”. I don’t have actual data to back that up. That is one survivor story, but that narrative speaks volumes of truth to me.

JH: What don’t people know that you think they should?

It happens here and it’s harmful, but we can help, but now we need to look at the why it’s happening and how it’s happening and how we can interrupt it. In King County we have great free classes that are available for anyone who’s interested in taking them at our website,  We have five different trainings that are all free and all open to the public.

There are lots of myths and misconceptions about what sex trafficking is, and if we don’t have good information, we do ourselves a disservice.

We need people to be informed of what the actual issue is and once they know what it is, how to respond appropriately in a compassionate and judgment-free manner.

Here’s a question for you. Do LGBTQ youth experience homelessness at a disproportionately higher rate? Yes. Are homeless youth more likely to engage in things like survival sex and be more at risk for trafficking? Yes, so it makes sense that there’s a disproportionately high rate of LGBTQ youth who are trafficked and we really need to respond in a trauma informed, supportive, nonjudgmental way when we come across youth. Anyone can be exploited – boys, girls, trans youth, youth of all racial ethnicities, youth of all demographics, youth of all education levels, youth of all socioeconomic statuses. Any youth can be exploited.

When we ask the young people themselves, “Have you ever traded sex for money, drugs, food, shelter, or something you needed to survive?” And they say, yes. About half of our yesses come from girls and about half of our yesses come from boys. So if we’re only thinking that trafficking survivors, our girls were missing half of our victims who are in need of services. This happens to our boys, this happens to our trans youth, this happens to our gender nonconforming youth. We really need to open our eyes that this can happen to anyone.

There are some families where you grew up in, you’re expected to be a doctor. Some families where you grew up and you’re expected to be a lawyer. Some families you grew up in, you’re expected to be a teacher. There are some families where you grew up in, you’re expected to be in the sex trades. No judgment on that. That’s just the family business. There’s also family-based exploitation that happens when maybe mom or dad’s addiction is so extreme that they are sharing access to the young person for financial assistance to get those drugs. Or it might be that mom and dad need money for rent and so their trading access to their child for that purpose. People really haven’t looked into that and really thought about it much, but what we’re finding is that it is very prevalent in cases of sex trafficking, that there have been some family trafficking as well.

Poverty is a really great trafficker. When you do not have the means to make ends meet, you’ll do anything. We live in an area with very high-income inequality and we have people with access to lots of wealth and people who are barely scraping by and it is ripe for trafficking.

JH: Do you think it’s getting worse now that there’s that disparity in the greater Seattle area?

That is a great question and my answer is, I don’t know. Seattle is oftentimes ranked as one of the worst cases for traffic or were cities for trafficking. And could it be because it’s actually that bad? Maybe. We are a port city. We are near an international border. We’re on the I-5 corridor. We’re part of the circuit. You have Vancouver, BC, Seattle, Portland, and Las Vegas. We have high income disproportionality. All of those could be why we have a really bad problem.

The pushback I would give is in Seattle and in King County for the most part, comparatively speaking, we’re what we are relatively well aware of this issue through free training and fabulous organizations. So we have a more engaged community. We are identifying more cases, we’re prosecuting more cases and we’re connecting more survivors to services. So it looks like we have a really bad problem. I’d argue that there are cities out there who have no trafficking cases, not because they don’t have trafficking, but because they’re not aware and they’re not looking for it. So on one level, the fact that we are finding all of these cases, that’s a really good thing. It means we’re aware of it. And we’re connecting our survivors to much needed services. Now do we need more services? Yes, but we’re doing good with the what we have at the moment.

2019 Mock Trial was spectacular in so many ways

By: Judge McHale

Congratulations on a job well done. Our tournament this year was extraordinary.

You all leave me proud to be a part of this program. What a wonderful year and how great that we had Judge Downing presiding last night over the Championship round. With reference to our final trial, here are the final results of our 2019 competition with a list of the 5 teams going on to the State tournament.

1. Franklin A.
2. Seattle Prep A.
3. Franklin B.
4. Seattle Prep B.
5. Chief Sealth

I wish all the best to the teams going onward to Olympia and to all of you as the school year progresses.

Franklin High School A and Seattle Prep A

We started out on Saturday, February 23, 2019 with my reading of the following provision of the Washington State Bar Association Creed of Professionalism:

In my dealings with lawyers, parties, witnesses, members of the bench and court staff, I will be civil and courteous and guided by fundamental tenets of integrity and fairness.

I saw living examples of compliance with this provision as you all worked through the difficult case problem at hand. Courtesy and consideration were exemplified by:

(1) Holy Names Academy’s Dome team stepping up to take on 4 trials on Saturday so that all teams could be guaranteed three rounds;

(2) Seattle Prep and Nathan Hale agreeing to work with an O’Dea team to try having an unavailable witness testify via computer;

(3) Nathan Hale getting stronger every year with their student run and coached team;

(4) Everyone handling the medical emergency situation in one of our courtrooms on Saturday in a calm and supportive way;

(5) Jefferson Community Center and Holy Names Academy’s Cougar team treating each other respectfully with a rules violation issue and working things out;

(6) Supportive cheering from all teams when Chief Sealth was announced as the leading team at the end of our Saturday trials;

Franklin High School B and Chief Sealth

(7) How well behaved everyone was in the Courthouse (Our Facilities Security Staff appreciated your friendliness and excitement on Saturday);

Awesome Franklin Kids

(8) The respect that I saw of all teams in the way our volunteer raters and judges were treated; and

(9) The genuine hugs and handshakes shared by the opposing Seattle Prep and Franklin teams at the awards presentation last night. In fact, participants seemed more excited about interacting with each other than with the Nobel Prize sized trophies that were provided by the YMCA Law & Government Program.

Garfield High School

Walk in the Shoes: Earn and Learn Summer Program

March and April are busy recruitment months for students enrolled in Highline School District’s Avanza Program. They are thinking about the summer Earn and Learn program, a multi-organization collaboration project to re-engage youth through meaningful, paid employment that also helps students make up high school credit.

Prospective students are flagging down King County Juvenile Court’s Riley Todd in the halls of New Start High School to get inside info about applications and the 15 open spots.

Participants are 14-19 years old, primarily LatinX, economically disadvantaged, at risk of not completing high school and possibly court involved.

“They know what we do. Word gets out. It’s a great program.” Riley Todd, Juvenile Court

Earn and Learn is a six week program, four days per week, six hours per day. Students make $11/hour, spend half the day in class earning high school math credit, and half the day transforming the Shark Garden.

Along the way, they develop better work habits, work out interpersonal issues and solve problems – all with 3:1 student-ratio staff support.

“I learned to have patience working with people and plants. I learned to use tools. It was nice to interact with others.”

Earn and Learn goals are straight forward:

  • High school re-engagement
  • Employment experience and training
  • A positive, safe, healthy summer vacation environment
  • Intensive case management support that leads to post-summer school and employment

Does it work? The data tells the story.

The program has been in operation for 11 years and the last four have been under Riley’s management. But Riley is hardly on his own.

His village includes: King County DCHS/Education and Employment Resources, the Community Programs Unit of King County Juvenile Court, the high school, volunteers, Neighborhood House, and the Highline School District. All have a stake in this successful program to prevent court involvement and interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline through personal and one-on-one engagement.

Students who remain on the Avanza caseload after summer are earning 30% more school credit than they did the previous year.

The key to success

Team members manage behaviors in-house and on-site. They don’t leverage suspension or being sent home as a discipline tool. The team says it is more effective to hold students accountable and help them learn from poor choices when students are present.

The team also notes that supportive, positive, reliable, consistent, and professional relationships are the most valuable tool. They maintain a 5-15 staff/student ratio so everyone gets attention from someone. They also leverage food as engagement tool, and it’s a key component to the program’s success in engaging the community.

90% of the students completed the summer program

Riley says the need for youth support and intervention is real in the White Center/Burien corridor. Each year for the past four years, the program has lost one student per year within a year following the summer program. That is four in 60. One from a car crash and three by firearms.

Riley Todd is a King County Juvenile Court employee co-located in a local school. He says he is approachable and knowledgeable and says he’s grateful he can help youth with real answers and information that can change lives

Juvenile Court has many other community programs.

Thanking those who help children: CASA volunteers

These unpaid volunteers represent children who have been removed  from their families due to abuse or neglect. They aren’t foster parents. They are CASA volunteers.

On Feb. 1, 2019, Judge Elizabeth Berns swore in 21 new Court Appointed Special Advocates with these words.  

On behalf of King County Superior Court, our Dependency Courts and Family Treatment Court, I acknowledge and thank you for the commitment are about to make to be a Court Appointed Special Advocate—to be a critical voice speaking to the concerns and the needs of so many neglected and abused children in our community.

In 2018, our court addressed the needs and interests of more than 3000 children.  With the increase of parents struggling with the disease of addiction, decline in good mental health, homelessness and unemployment, I do not expect that we will see fewer children in our system. 

And while it can feel discouraging and sometimes overwhelming to think about how many children we see in dependency, I encourage you to focus on the reality that what you do makes a positive difference—which in turn can have a magical ripple effect through generations.  Together we can be hopeful, joyful, and thoughtful.

We will frequently see you in our calendars, and less frequently in trial.  The Court pays close attention to the reports you will write.  While presiding over the calendars, I frequently turned to the CASA report to get a more accurate read on what was going on in the family.  I looked to the CASA report to inform me about children with special medical and mental health needs, children who had a particularly traumatic experience and those children who are marginalized—including the many children who are navigating their way along a spectrum of gender identity and expression.  What I expected of others (social workers and attorneys) when it came to understanding a particular child, is what the CASA modelled.  In other words, you frequently set the bar for how we should be affirming children and supporting their needs.

Your time on the calendars may be brief, a mere fraction of the time you have given to a case.  However, your impact and perspective is long-lasting.

At trial, I rely on the CASA to learn about appropriate outcomes for children.  I want some assurances that the order I may put into effect will not create harm moving forward.

In Family Treatment Court, you will have an additional opportunity to spend time collaborating with others as a member of a team supporting family reunification and recovery.  

As you embark on this journey, please take good care of yourselves.  We are traumatized by what we see, hear and read, and by the questions we must ask and the answers we receive.  Exposure to secondary trauma has a cumulative effect.  Tend responsibly to your own needs so you can be fully present for others.

If you are interested in becoming a CASA volunteer, go to