Blind volunteer shows Teen Court anything is possible

A 14-year-old volunteer has shown the folks at Manatee County’s Teen Court that anything is possible if you set your mind to it.

Brandon Cox has been volunteering with the Teen Court program for more than a year, having been a juror and now a clerk.

The Teen Court program offers first-time teen offenders a “second chance” with a jury of their peers but still holds them accountable for their actions. Teen Court meets once a week at the Manatee County Courthouse.

Brandon, a freshman at Lakewood Ranch High School, has been blind since birth.

He has two prosthetic eyes after being born with anophthomia, or without an eye, and microphthomia, where his eye was small and underdeveloped. The doctors were unable to determine the cause, but his mother remembers the moment she found out.

“It was probably the hardest thing I’ve had to hear,” said Brandon’s mom, Anita Cox.

Brandon’s bright blue Braille typing machine helps him succeed in his newest role as a clerk. Braille is a series of raised dots representing letters and numbers and is read with the sense of touch by the visually impaired.

Brandon uses his Braille machine to help him complete his clerking duties as he has to read the docket of cases out loud in court. In order for him to read the docket, it must be typed in Braille.

Brandon was about 3 years old when he learned how to read Braille and use the machine.

“It’s a very proud mom moment. He’s talented in so many things, but this has just been amazing for him because ever since he started this, he’s been interested in the whole lawyer thing now,” Cox said of her youngest son.

Brandon doesn’t let much of anything slow him down. He plays several instruments, rides his bike and goes rollerblading in addition to his time spent as a Teen Court volunteer.

His interest in the program started in middle school. Brandon said he heard a school announcement about being an attorney in Teen Court and thought it “sounded cool,” so he asked his mom about volunteering.

Teen Court supervisor Sue Lockliear said accommodations in training were made so Brandon could participate. So far, she said, he’s done very well.

“He’s really just taken that role (of clerk) on as his own,” Lockliear said. “We really appreciate the time that he and his family come and volunteer with us.”

Brandon said it’s interesting simply being in the courtroom.

“I like finding out about different cases,” Brandon said, calling the types of matters adjudicated in court “diverse.”

“I thought different cases and testimony were quite interesting.”

Brandon said he likely will continue to volunteer at Teen Court for the rest of his school career or as often as his schedule allows.

How to volunteer

For more information on volunteering with Teen Court, or the next training session on April 29, visit the manateeclerk.com/department/TeenCourt.