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UC Law student organizes event to focus on juvenile justice

Symposium will take place Oct. 18 at the University of Cincinnati

Juvenile courts in the U.S. handled more 800,000 cases in 2016, according to data collected by the Department of Justice. Each of these cases represents an opportunity to have a positive impact on a young person’s life.  

The day-long Juvenile Justice Symposium, set for Oct. 18 at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, will bring together legal, mental health, child advocacy, and law enforcement professionals to discuss strategies for approaching these opportunities.

The symposium is unique in that it was planned by a UC Law student, Wynn Horton.

“We would love to have a variety of perspectives in the room; folks who work at non-profits, corrections officers, people who work with youth groups at churches, or with youth councils, in addition to lawyers and judges," said Horton. “So many services are plugged into a single person’s experience, and unless you have all of those voices in the room it’s hard to know what system changes could improve their life”.  

Wynn Horton, University of Cincinnait College of Law

Wynn Horton

Horton was inspired by his experience attending the Hamilton County Domestic Violence Summit last fall.

“It was an incredible time. I got to meet some really great people and do a lot of thinking at a problem-solving level,” said Horton. “Afterward, I thought ‘What if we did this again, but with an emphasis on juvenile justice?’” 

Horton connected with Professor Anne Lucas, who teaches family law; Magistrate Kathleen Lenski, who teaches juvenile law; and Tracy Cook, executive director of ProKids, a local children’s’ advocacy group, and began meeting to share ideas.

“I love event planning.  Sometimes people forget when they come to law school, that they have other skill sets that are also applicable in the legal field, so this is a good opportunity to do something that is a little different from coursework,” said Horton. 

As an undergraduate student, Horton didn't plan to attend law school. When he graduated, he moved from New York to Virginia and began working for a non-profit dedicated to serving victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, sexual assault and stalking. The organization's workforce training program, called Sweethaven, is a fully functioning bakery. At first, Horton’s role was to teach baking skills, but he later became a volunteer coordinator, marketer, educator and event planner. 

“I felt pulled into that work. My father was a pastor and 90 percent of that job is counseling people and responding to crises. When I was young I would often go to the nursing home or the hospital with him. So there was always this idea, growing up, that serving people was the point,” said Horton.  

Working with abuse victims in Virginia, Horton saw the importance of developing strategies that acknowledge and respect the trauma that each person has in their background. These trauma-informed approaches are widely used in healthcare and social work and are beginning to be adopted within some parts of the legal system. Horton plans to be a part of that change.

“As a lawyer, I hope to bring in everything I learned from being in social work for four years,” he said.