MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael gave his annual State of the Court Address for the Juvenile Courts of Memphis and Shelby County on Friday.
Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael hit the positives, including a $2 million upgrade to the court complex HVAC system, a new program to provide free legal services to qualifying parents and plans to make library cards available to every child involved in the court.
Michael also spoke on the hopes for a new $25 million detention center next to the present facility.
He also noted that talks are ongoing for the court to be included in the capital improvement budget in 2021. Their hope is to build and create a family-friendly facility after getting a new detention center online.
Michael praised his team for their hard work over the past year, but noted there is a lot to look forward to in the year ahead. Michael made a pledge to hold county commissioners' feet to the fire.
"We need your help in making sure our employees are paid appropriately, and the sources of money we need to be a model court are forthcoming when we asked for them," Michael said.
Michael also addressed youth offenders who have been charged with violent crimes and could end up in adult court. Michael was emphatic he doesn't want that to happen, but said there are times when he has no choice.
"It's hard to say, 'I can't help you anymore. It's hard to say that," Michael said. "But when a child has been through the system and we've thrown everything at them and they've gone out and murdered somebody or violently carjacked somebody. . . what do you do? Under the law I have to follow the law."
Michael said he's drastically cut the number of children transferred to adult court, from as high as 250 in 2012 before he became juvenile court judge to around 92.
He blamed the availability of guns and the influence of gangs, but said many come from homes where there is no parental involvement.