Keep Juvenile Court Out of the Public Gaze

Andrew Keats, The Imprint •
Judge Alex Kim talking to fans on his YouTube channel

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Sept. 7 exposé about Juvenile Court Judge Alex Kim’s YouTube antics pulled back the curtain on the myth of the benevolent and wise juvenile court judge ensconced with the power to guide errant youth on a course of rehabilitation. 

As in Oz, the man behind the curtain — and they are usually men — wields his power in harmful ways. But more than just the troubling conduct of one judge and the juvenile court he oversees, the Star-Telegram’s reporting reveals the way our modern juvenile court system causes lasting harm to youth, particularly and discriminately to Black, brown and Indigenous youth.

Garnering almost 2 million views, Judge Kim’s YouTube broadcast of his juvenile court proceedings show a judge employing racist stereotypes to criminalize a child, pressuring a confession from another child that ultimately endangered the child’s family, threatening another child with cutting off all contact with his mother, and transferring another child to criminal court for adult prosecution because the child swore at him. The videos show a biased judge abusing his authority; their publication online shows far more.

photo credit: Fort Worth Star-Telegram; still frame from Judge Alex Kim's YouTube channel

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About the Expert

Andrew Keats joined Juvenile Law Center as a staff attorney in 2018. During his time at Juvenile Law Center, Andrew has engaged in policy advocacy efforts to eliminate fines and fees from the juvenile justice system as well as conducting research and advocacy to increase confidentiality and expungement protections for youth with juvenile records. Currently Andrew is focused on litigation to prevent youth from being tried as adults in the criminal justice system and ensuring those who are tried as adults do not receive the state’s harshest punishments and instead are afforded a meaningful opportunity for release. Andrew has also authored numerous amicus briefs in state supreme courts around the county.