Salt Lake City Mentor Model Court

Brief History

Under the leadership of Judge Sharon McCully, the Third District Juvenile Court in Salt Lake City, Utah, became a Model Court in 1995.  The Model Court achieved Mentor Court status in 2008.  The Salt Lake City Model Court has served as an example of how court improvement efforts can be broadly institutionalized to improve case processing.  The Court works closely with the Utah Court Improvement Project (CIP) in order to implement innovations and achieve improved outcomes statewide. The CIP has created a Statewide Model Court structure with eight jurisdictions participating. 

The Statewide Model Court includes a CIP Committee which has representation from several juvenile judges and one appellate court judge, court administration, parents’ defense, a foster parent, DCFS, Office of the Guardian ad litem, Office of the Attorney General, the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, education, and the Ute Tribe.  The Committee is governed by the “Statewide Table of Six,” which consists of a juvenile judge, court administrators, a parent defense attorney, the statewide director of the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS), the director of the Attorney General’s Child Protection Division, and the director of the Office of the Guardian ad Litem (GAL).  The CIP strategic plan for 2012-2015 sets forth the goals and priorities for the Salt Lake City Model Court and all of the other district courts.

Each district juvenile court also has a collaborative entity or a “Local Table” that is made up of representatives of the stakeholder organizations including the courts, juvenile justice, DCFS, Assistant Attorneys General, defense bar, GAL, and in some areas, education, mental health and others.  Local Tables meet to discuss and address local district policy and process issues.  The Salt Lake City Model Court specifically has bi-monthly bench meetings. 


Current Lead Judge(s):  Judge Christine Decker

Past Lead Judge(s):  Judge Sharon McCully

Court website –

Signature Best Practices Successfully Implemented

1. One Family-One Judge

Once a child or family is assigned to a particular judge, all subsequent proceedings are assigned to the same judge.

2. Attorney Courtroom Teams

The same team of attorneys (GAL, Assistant Attorney General, Parental Defense) are assigned to a single judge’s courtroom.  The team approach provides delay reduction in scheduling and holding hearings, as all necessary parties are available and represented at hearings.

Additional Practices/Initiatives Implemented


Working With Dually Involved Youth Toolkit (available at

2012 Court Improvement Summit

Children in Court (increasing youth attendance at court hearings)

Current Goals

NATIONAL GOAL: Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Compliance & Tribal Engagement

The Utah Indian Child Welfare Committee recognized the significant protections that ICWA provides to the rights and culture of Native American children and families and acknowledges that it lacks data on the state’s compliance with ICWA.  The CIP is undertaking a statewide assessment of ICWA compliance. The purpose of the assessment is to provide the Committee with baseline data to focus CIP efforts on specific areas that need improvement.

In December 2012, CIP contracted with the National Center for State Courts to conduct an assessment, which will be completed between January 1, 2013 and June 30, 2013.

The state held its first statewide ICWA conference in 2012 and plans to hold annual ICWA conferences in the future.

STATE GOAL: Statewide Implementation of Best Practices

The Salt Lake City Model Court is working closely with the CIP on statewide initiatives to promote youth engagement/children in court (as noted above).  In addition to improving data collection on youth attendance in court, other statewide activities and strategies related to court attendance include identifying and addressing barriers to attendance, increasing children’s familiarity with the court process (through holding “Kids and Judges Day” and “Teens and Judges Day” events), and providing older youths with information about upcoming hearings by training youths on using “MyCase,” the website that enables them to access the court’s information management system, CARE.  

LOCAL GOAL:  Child Well-Being on Education

The Model Court began collaborating with the state Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program and state educators to train and utilize CASA volunteers as educational advocates for youth in foster care.  The CASAs will support the youth’s educational needs in the school setting and report to the court on educational progress.