The Youth Court Program in the Third Judicial District began when Judge Thomas J. Ryan, Magistrate Judge for Owyhee County, saw a need for the Juvenile Courts to make a change. He began to collaborate with attorneys, the Trial Court Administrator, judges, school personnel, and the Juvenile Probation Department. Together they formed a committee and wrote a grant to the Department of Health and Welfare, requesting an amount that would allow the program to pay a part-time administrator and to cover expenses for a six month period. They were awarded the grant and on March 1, 1997 a committee of five hired Alana Sharp as the first Third Judicial District Youth Court Administrator.
The Youth Court held its first session on April 30, 1997 in Homedale, Idaho. The first session included two youth offenders, six student jurors, one student bailiff, one student clerk, four volunteer attorneys, and three volunteers from the community to help with the new program. The first session was successful and the program was on its way. Since its first session in 1997, the Third Judicial District Youth Court has been developed in four of the six counties of the Third District—Owyhee, Gem, Washington, and Canyon Counties.
The Youth Court program was established for sentencing first time offenders, between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, who are still in school, and that have entered a plea of guilty for the offense of either minor in possession of or consumption of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and/or paraphernalia. Curfew violations may also be heard, if cited at the same time as one of the previous offenses.