Paul Seeman maintained responsibilities as a judge with the Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland, California, from 2009 to 2013. During this time, Paul Seeman also served as vice chair of the Juvenile Law Education Committee of the California Center for Judicial Education and Research.
Juvenile proceedings differ from adult criminal proceedings in a number of ways. Unlike adults, who commit “crimes” of various degrees, juveniles can commit only “delinquent acts.” Instead of participating in “trials,” juvenile offenders typically attend “adjudication hearings.”
Because juveniles do not enjoy the same constitutional rights as adults, they do not have a right to a trial by their peers. Adjudication hearings instead take place before a judge, who decides whether the juvenile is guilty and, if necessary, selects an appropriate sentence. The goal of juvenile sentences is to rehabilitate the defendant rather than to punish.
If a juvenile is found guilty of a delinquent act, the offense will be recorded and sealed. Once the juvenile reaches 18 years of age, this record is usually expunged to prevent juvenile offenses from affecting adult life in a negative way.
Alameda Collaborative Juvenile Court
A former Berkeley law practitioner with experience in juvenile trials and appeals, Paul Seeman served as Alameda County Superior Court judge. Selected California Juvenile Court Judge of the Year in 2009, Paul Seeman handled a wide range of cases and launched the Alameda County’s Collaborative Mental Health Court.
Modeled after problem-solving drug courts, juvenile mental health courts (JMHCs) address a situation in which as many as 70 percent of youth within juvenile detention centers nationwide are diagnosed with a mental illness. Unfortunately, detention facilities do not provide therapeutic environments for these young people suffering from psychological disorders.
JMHCs offer a uniquely collaborative approach in providing youths with ways of gaining access to community-based mental health services. This contrasts with an adversarial juvenile court process that typically results in detention. The exact treatment pathway is decided with input from the prosecutor, juvenile court representatives, the public defender, and mental health liaisons. Key challenges involve providing levels of service, within tight municipal budgets, that enable youth to successfully undergo treatment and rehabilitation, and return to productive lives in their community and school settings.