Prince George’s County Model Court

Brief History

In 2010, the Maryland Administrative Office of the Courts contracted with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) to institute a Model Court in Prince George’s County. The Circuit Court for Prince George’s County is a state trial court of unlimited jurisdiction. It handles all types of cases and is divided into three main divisions: Family, Criminal, and Civil. The Family Division of the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County has two components, family and juvenile. The juvenile component hears child abuse and neglect cases, juvenile justice cases, and truancy court cases with four judges and three masters who focus on assisting families in crisis with obtaining necessary services using programs, resources, and specialized personnel to address underlying family conflicts. The current judicial leadership includes Judge Cathy Serrette (Family Coordinating Judge), Judge Larnzell Martin, Jr., (current Model Court Lead Judge), and Masters Kristin Hileman-Adams and Althea Stewart Jones.

Leadership

Current Lead Judge:  Judge Larnzell Martin, Jr.

Court website - None

Successfully Implemented Signature Best Practices

1.  Transitional Planning Hearings and Emancipation Checklist Implementation

On June 21, 2012, the Prince George’s County Model Court began implementing transitional planning hearings for those who are age 17 and older.  The goal of the transitional planning hearing is to improve outcomes for older and transitioning youth. 

The hearing is a review hearing focusing on the status of a youth’s transition plan and preparing them for life beyond foster care.  The development of the transition plan is handled by the Department of the Social Services.  Each hearing is set for one hour and youth is expected to be present.  At least 45 days before a scheduled hearing, each party is requested to inform the other parties and the Court of the following:  1) each party should indicate whether there are any special issues that should be placed on the agenda for the hearing; and 2) each party should indicate whether any person considered an important resource on an issue or an important resource for the youth will be invited to be present at the hearing.  During the hearing, tasks will be discussed and delegated to youth to complete by the next hearing. 

The Prince George’s County Model Court collected baseline data to analyze impact of the initiative for future improvements.  The Performance Measures and Evaluation Committee within the Model Court works to identify data elements for the program evaluation. 

2.  Time-Certain Calendaring

The Prince George’s County Model Court made strides to improve calendaring of hearings.  In August 2010 when the Model Court Liaison visited the jurisdiction for the first time, improving calendaring of hearings was one of the recommendations made for practice improvement.  At the time, the Prince George’s County Model Court employed a staggered calendaring by scheduling two to three cases in certain time blocks.  One challenge identified by stakeholders then was a lack of resources for the Public Defenders who represent indigent parents. 

Since the first site visit, significant improvement has been made by the Model Court.  By the second site visit that was conducted in March 2012, two courtrooms primarily hearing dependency cases scheduled two hearings in each time slot, i.e., 8:45 am, 10:00 am, and 11:00 am.  For the afternoon, hearings were scheduled at 12:45 pm and 1:45 pm.  These hearings were scheduled as such to avoid overlapping of hearings scheduled in both courtrooms.  Even with this effort, many hearings were delayed due to attorneys running between the two courtrooms. 

The new calendaring system was implemented as of October 1, 2012, to alternate days for two masters to hear dependency and delinquency cases.  While some professional groups are satisfied with the new system, others already saw challenges to improve.  The team continues to discuss ways to improve calendaring and will revisit the issue in February 2013.         

Additional Best Practices and Initiatives Implemented

Development of Emancipation Manual

Children in Court/Consultation Hearings

Independent Living Fair

Fast Track to Permanency Pilot

Current Goals

NATIONAL GOAL:  ICWA Compliance & Tribal Engagement

Since the participation of the Lead Judges’ Meeting held in December 2011 in Reno, Nevada, Lead Judge Martin continues to make efforts to reach out and engage with local tribe and the Urban Indian Center to build relationships.  In January 2012, Maryland Governor signed an order conferring official Maryland Indian status upon the Piscataway Indian Nation, the Piscataway Conoy Confederacy and Sub-tribes and the Cedarville Band of Piscataway Indians.  Lead Judge Martin met the Vice-Chair of the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs to begin building a relationship. 

STATE GOAL:  State-wide Implementation of the Best Practices

As the contract Model Court, the Prince George’s County Model Court works closely with the Maryland Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) Foster Care Court Improvement Project (FCCIP) to implement best practices and Model Court processes statewide.

A joint strategic planning retreat was held on March 10, 2012, with the Model Courts from Baltimore City, Charles County, and Prince George’s County, in addition to participants representing the FCCIP as part of the statewide best practices implementation efforts.

LOCAL GOAL:  Child Well-Being on Education

A subcommittee has been formed to address educational issues. This is also a statewide initiative and the Model Court works closely with the FCCIP to improve educational outcomes for children and youth in foster care.