By Ed Brock
As surprise shifted into happiness at receiving the "Scales of Justice" Award, Clayton County Juvenile Court Judge Steven Teske smiled.
"I'm breaking out in a cold sweat," Teske said. "When I walked in I thought maybe this was my last day."
Instead, the 43-year-old Teske, who has been with the court for four years, was honored Monday morning for his efforts to improve access to justice and the quality of legal services, to promote the legal profession and to support the community.
More specifically, it was given for Teske's involvement of the family of juvenile offenders in the process of treating the juvenile and assuring each defendant's right to representation, said Juvenile Court Chief Judge K. Van Banke.
"You don't do something like this on your own. This is a group project," Teske said to the gathering of about 40 friends, family and co-workers in Banke's courtroom. "Judge Banke and Judge (Tracy) Graham's names should be on this as well."
Teske's wife Deborah and older daughter DeAnna also came to the surprise presentation of the award. Deborah Teske has known about the presentation for more than a month and managed to keep the surprise from her husband.
"It was very hard initially because he saw his calendar marked off," Deborah Teske said. "He worked very, very hard for it. This court has been his dream and his baby."
The NALS Foundation based in Tulsa, Ok. presents the Scales of Justice award to recipients nationwide.
"They're pretty careful who they give it to," said Lovette Bennett, newly elected president of the NALS Foundation Atlanta chapter that Teske addressed previously. "He went over so well the members recommended that we nominate him for the award."
Teske also praised the staff of the juvenile court and said that Clayton County will be used as a model for other court systems. In August, Teske will bring several ideas on the county's system for providing alternatives to detention of juveniles to an American Privation and Pardons Association workshop in Cleveland, Ohio.
Teske has also been asked to be on a statewide steering committee to encourage other juvenile court systems to adopt programs like Clayton County's Finding Alternatives for Safety and Treatment program that will begin in July.
The FAST program will be composed of a panel of representatives from the Department of Family and Children Services, Rainbow House, a civilian volunteer and others who will review each case with an eye for finding other ways to deal with juvenile offenders beside incarceration.
"We only want to lock up the kids who present a risk of harming other people," Teske said.
There will be a meeting for FAST volunteers Thursday at the DFCS offices on Battlecreek Road in Jonesboro, Teske said.