To protect children, empower families and improve the system by creating and implementing a more effective and efficient civil justice system.
Judge Peter Sakai was 27 years old when he started his career as Chief of the Juvenile Section of the District Attorney’s Office overseeing prosecutions for juvenile and child abuse and neglect cases. In 1995 he was appointed by unanimous consent by all Civil District Court judges to be the Children’s Court Judge. As sitting Judge of the 225th District Court, Judge Sakai has made tremendous strides in making the child welfare system better for children and families. In addition to creating a state-of-the-art child-friendly, child-focused courtroom and developing restorative programs, he uses data, analytics, and metrics to closely measure outcomes. The Children’s Court has become a national model for how we treat children and families in the child welfare system. Judge Sakai initiates fiscal responsibility by reducing the amount of cases, hearings, court costs, attorney’s fees, and ultimately taxpayer dollars needed for the cost of the system. Judge Sakai has established a well-run, well-organized child welfare system, engaging the necessary resources to help children and families in the most effective and efficient way possible. He has brought the community together to protect children and to improve our system.
In 1995, the Bexar County Commissioners Court created the Bexar County Children’s Court. The first initial courtroom was 1200 square feet, referred to as “the closet.” Since its re-design in 2003, people have come from all over the world to see what Judge Sakai and Bexar County has done to create the nationally-renowned 12,000 square ft Children’s Court, including two courtrooms, two hearing rooms, four conference rooms, and a children’s protection area. Spanning the entire third floor of the Historical Bexar County Courthouse, this child-friendly space gives dignity and respect to all who enter the courtroom. Judge Sakai has established cutting edge programs such as Early Intervention Program and Family Drug Court to ultimately unify families and keep families from returning to the child welfare system. Judge Sakai continues to engage community partners to provide a level playing field and has made our community a safe place for families to live, work, and play.
Judge Sakai echoes his friend, mentor, and predecessor, The Honorable Judge John Specia, maintaining the conviction that “a judge is responsible for putting a child into the foster care system, and responsible for getting a child out of the foster care system.” Judge Sakai, a product of the traditional family values of hard work, honesty, and humility, is committed to empowering families, protecting children, and putting families back together again. Judge Sakai upholds the principles of Restorative Justice, leveraging the power of the courts, CPS, and the nonprofit community to provide services for all these parents and children that are coming through our system. Judge Sakai encourages the community to care about all families— and through communication, collaboration, and coordination— to come up with effective strategies in dealing with child abuse and neglect. Judge Sakai sees the court system as the most powerful tool to make change happen in these families, and he holds himself, parents, and the legal system accountable for an effective and efficient system, so that all who enter the courtroom have a chance at a bright and prosperous future.