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Old 01-28-2009, 05:31 PM   #1
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A little judicial celebration

From today's Wall Street Journal

January 28, 2009, 9:05 am
Judges to Plead Guilty in Scheme to Exchange Juvies for Cash
Posted by Dan Slater
Here’s a unique scenario: Judges channeling juvenile offenders into a private detention facility in exchange for payments from the facility’s owners.

The Legal Intelligencer reports that two Pennsylvania judges — Mark Ciavarella Jr. and Michael Conahan — have conditionally agreed to plead guilty and serve more than seven years each in prison for their roles in the scheme. U.S. Attorney Martin Carlson reportedly indicated that the indictment against the judges was the first set of charges and that the investigation was ongoing.

The criminal information, released Monday, reportedly alleges that between June 2000 and the end of April 2007, Ciavarella and Conahan collected more than $2.6 million in exchange for decisions from the bench that benefitted the owners of a private juvenile detention center including a 2004 agreement for the placement of juvenile offenders worth $58 million.

Conahan’s lawyer, Philip Gelso, declined comment. Ciavarella attorney Al Flora said that the charges were just “allegations” and the plea agreements were “conditional” on the defendants accepting the facts to be presented by prosecutors at a plea hearing that has not yet been scheduled.

Sad - but nobody should be surprised. Money corrupts. A news story this morning (1/28) reports that passengers on the US Air flight are seriously thinking about filing lawsuits to recover for “mental distress.” That one report says it all.

Comment by Mark D. Olson - January 28, 2009 at 10:20 am

And it looks like the judges are in store for a host of civil suits against them for sending them to their co-conspirators’ juvenile jails for piddly trangressions - more inmates meant more money for all. Here’s an excerpt from this morning’s Citizen’s Voice, a local newspaper:

“We feel that the people responsible for the scandal are child abusers because they abused children for profit.”

Jessica Van Reeth, now 19 and in college, was listed as a plaintiff on a lawsuit filed last April in which the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center accused Ciavarella of ignoring rules of procedure and running young defendants through the system without legal representation.

The state Supreme Court refused to intervene in the case, but Marsha Levick, the legal director of the Juvenile Law Center, said the allegations against Ciavarella have led the organization to contemplate a federal class-action lawsuit against the judge.

“It’s very difficult to sue judges for violations of rights of any sort, but we have a unique situation here, where we have a judge who appears to have acted outside the scope of his judicial responsibilities,” Levick said Tuesday.

Attorney Barry H. Dyller of Wilkes-Barre said Tuesday he is also considering filing a class-action lawsuit on behalf of families of juveniles sentenced by Ciavarella.

Comment by DKoire - January 28, 2009

We've been waiting for months for this to go down. I work about a block and a half from their courthouse and it's been an open secret that the Feds were in investigating the judges. And from what I understand, this is just a piece of what is being investigated.

The pleas haven't been entered yet. And Ciavarella is making noise that although he has preliminarily accepted the prison sentence, he won't admit to all the charges and may withdraw his plea.

My favorite part of the announcement was the IRS official at the press conference saying they still owe taxes on the bribes.


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Old 01-29-2009, 07:04 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by BonosSaint View Post
My favorite part of the announcement was the IRS official at the press conference saying they still owe taxes on the bribes.


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Old 02-11-2009, 09:48 PM   #3
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It's hitting the national news now. Plea hearing tomorrow and more arrests to come. The Feds are doing a nice job here.
And I know stuff like this is happening all over. Not much of a justice system, is it?

There are so many back stories.

I expect it'll clean up for a couple of years and then dirty up again. I hope I'm wrong, but I have no reason to think I am.


Pa. judges accused of jailing kids for cash
Judges allegedly took $2.6 million in payoffs to put juveniles in lockups
The Associated Press
updated 8:56 p.m. ET, Wed., Feb. 11, 2009
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. - For years, the juvenile court system in Wilkes-Barre operated like a conveyor belt: Youngsters were brought before judges without a lawyer, given hearings that lasted only a minute or two, and then sent off to juvenile prison for months for minor offenses.

The explanation, prosecutors say, was corruption on the bench.

In one of the most shocking cases of courtroom graft on record, two Pennsylvania judges have been charged with taking millions of dollars in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers.

“I’ve never encountered, and I don’t think that we will in our lifetimes, a case where literally thousands of kids’ lives were just tossed aside in order for a couple of judges to make some money,” said Marsha Levick, an attorney with the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, which is representing hundreds of youths sentenced in Wilkes-Barre.

Prosecutors say Luzerne County Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan took $2.6 million in payoffs to put juvenile offenders in lockups run by PA Child Care LLC and a sister company, Western PA Child Care LLC. The judges were charged on Jan. 26 and removed from the bench by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court shortly afterward.

No company officials have been charged, but the investigation is still going on.

The high court, meanwhile, is looking into whether hundreds or even thousands of sentences should be overturned and the juveniles’ records expunged.

Among the offenders were teenagers who were locked up for months for stealing loose change from cars, writing a prank note and possessing drug paraphernalia. Many had never been in trouble before. Some were imprisoned even after probation officers recommended against it.

Many appeared without lawyers, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1967 ruling that children have a constitutional right to counsel.

'I have disgraced my judgeship'
The judges are scheduled to plead guilty to fraud Thursday in federal court. Their plea agreements call for sentences of more than seven years behind bars.

Ciavarella, 58, who presided over Luzerne County’s juvenile court for 12 years, acknowledged last week in a letter to his former colleagues, “I have disgraced my judgeship. My actions have destroyed everything I worked to accomplish and I have only myself to blame.” Ciavarella, though, has denied he got kickbacks for sending youths to prison.

Conahan, 56, has remained silent about the case.

Many Pennsylvania counties contract with privately run juvenile detention centers, paying them either a fixed overall fee or a certain amount per youth, per day.

In Luzerne County, prosecutors say, Conahan shut down the county-run juvenile prison in 2002 and helped the two companies secure rich contracts worth tens of millions of dollars, at least some of that dependent on how many juveniles were locked up.

One of the contracts — a 20-year agreement with PA Child Care worth an estimated $58 million — was later canceled by the county as exorbitant.

The judges are accused of taking payoffs between 2003 and 2006.

Allegations of extortion
Robert J. Powell co-owned PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care until June. His attorney, Mark Sheppard, said his client was the victim of an extortion scheme.

“Bob Powell never solicited a nickel from these judges and really was a victim of their demands,” he said. “These judges made it very plain to Mr. Powell that he was going to be required to pay certain monies.”

For years, youth advocacy groups complained that Ciavarella was ridiculously harsh and ran roughshod over youngsters’ constitutional rights. Ciavarella sent a quarter of his juvenile defendants to detention centers from 2002 to 2006, compared with a statewide rate of one in 10.

The criminal charges confirmed the advocacy groups’ worst suspicions and have called into question all the sentences he pronounced.

Hillary Transue did not have an attorney, nor was she told of her right to one, when she appeared in Ciavarella’s courtroom in 2007 for building a MySpace page that lampooned her assistant principal.

Her mother, Laurene Transue, worked for 16 years in the child services department of another county and said she was certain Hillary would get a slap on the wrist. Instead, Ciavarella sentenced her to three months; she got out after a month, with help from a lawyer.

“I felt so disgraced for a while, like, what do people think of me now?” said Hillary, now 17 and a high school senior who plans to become an English teacher.

'I was completely destroyed'
Laurene Transue said Ciavarella “was playing God. And not only was he doing that, he was getting money for it. He was betraying the trust put in him to do what is best for children.”

Kurt Kruger, now 22, had never been in trouble with the law until the day police accused him of acting as a lookout while his friend shoplifted less than $200 worth of DVDs from Wal-Mart. He said he didn’t know his friend was going to steal anything.

Kruger pleaded guilty before Ciavarella and spent three days in a company-run juvenile detention center, plus four months at a youth wilderness camp run by a different operator.

“Never in a million years did I think that I would actually get sent away. I was completely destroyed,” said Kruger, who later dropped out of school. He said he wants to get his record expunged, earn his high school equivalency diploma and go to college.

“I got a raw deal, and yeah, it’s not fair,” he said, “but now it’s 100 times bigger than me.”
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Old 02-12-2009, 01:15 AM   #4
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You have to wonder how many jurisdictions things like this are happening in...
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Old 02-12-2009, 04:24 AM   #5
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Ciavarella and Conahan wielded a lot of power. Conahan was the President judge and then Ciavarella became the President judge so had almost total control of the courthouse budget and the courthouse personnel. One of the judges questioned him on the budget and Ciavarella removed him from the family court and assigned him to criminal court.

Interestingly enough, Ciavarella, Conahan and Sharkey (the court administrator who was arrested a few days later for embezzlement) were instrumental in having the only woman judge removed from her position recently for unprofessional conduct. She did have that reputation. (She wasn't accused of anything criminal that I know of, but she had a reputation for challenging the judge and was also providing information to the feds in this long and drawnout investigation). Will be interesting to see if she gets her job back.

Advocates for the juveniles had petitioned the state court to look into what was happening with the juveniles. They refused to do so until the judges were arrested, which also causes concern about what is going on in the higher levels as well as the DA's office, who was in these courtrooms when these children were being denied lawyers. (There has also been some anecdotal information that the parents of the juveniles were advised that it would go worse for them if they did have an attorney and hearing transcript shows precious little advising of the juveniles of any rights they did have)

I suspect that a lot more journalists are going to be taking advantage of the state's brand new (as of last month) Open Records law. We might have a little more transparancy now.

Two of the current remaining judges are up for re-election this year. I suspect they will be tainted with this whether they did anything wrong or not. If they weren't cooperating, then at the very least they were looking the other way.

It's such a high trust and judges have so much power over people's lives.
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Old 02-12-2009, 06:38 AM   #6
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Old 02-14-2009, 02:49 AM   #7
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Times Leader

February 14

Class action suits filed vs. judges
Suits are first to be filed against judges Mark Ciavarella Jr. and Michael T. Conahan.
By Terrie Morgan-Besecker tmorgan@timesleader.com
Law & Order Reporter

SCRANTON – Two class action lawsuits have been filed against two county judges and several others who are alleged to have participated in a scheme to place juveniles at two detention centers that are the focus of a probe into the Luzerne County judiciary.

The complaints, filed Thursday and Friday in federal court, are the first of several lawsuits expected to be filed in connection with the juvenile court scandal that led to criminal charges against judges Mark Ciavarella Jr. and Michael T. Conahan.

The suits were separately filed by attorney Michael Cefalo of West Pittston on behalf of Florence Wallace of Shavertown and her 15-year-old daughter, and attorney Barry H. Dyller of Wilkes-Barre on behalf of 13 juveniles and their parents.

Wallace’s daughter, Bernadine, 15, was incarcerated in a wilderness detention camp in 2007 after appearing before Ciavarella without an attorney on charges of making terroristic threats on myspace.com.

The complaints seek damages as potentially hundreds of other juveniles who are alleged to have been improperly detained in order to permit the judges and others to enrich themselves. In addition to Ciavarella and Conahan, the complaints name Gregory Zappala, owner of PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care; his former partner, attorney Robert Powell; local developer Robert Mericle, who built the centers, and Mid Atlantic Youth Services Corp., the agency that provided the treatment program and staff at the centers.

The suit also names the wives of Conahan and Ciavarella, plus various businesses owned by the judges and Powell, including his law firm, the Powell Law Group of Drums.

Dyller’s suit also named Sandra Brullo, individually and in her capacity as chief juvenile probation officer.

Ciavarella and Conahan pleaded guilty Thursday to charges they accepted more than $2.6 million in kickbacks in exchange for rulings that benefited the owners and builder of PA Child Care in Pittston Township and Western PA Child Care in Butler County.

Cefalo, who filed the suit in conjunction with a Pittsburgh law firm, alleges the defendants engaged in “racketeering activity” by utilizing the mail and wire transfers to disguise the source of the income the judges realized from the kickbacks.

“At the hands of two grossly corrupt judges and several conspirators, hundreds of Pennsylvania children, their families and loved ones, were victimized and their civil rights violated,” Cefalo said in a prepared statement. “It’s our intent to make sure that the system rights this terrible injustice and holds those responsible accountable.”

Most of the allegations in the complaints mirror the criminal complaint that was filed against Ciavarella and Conahan on Jan. 26 by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

The criminal complaint alleged the judges used their positions to make a number of favorable rulings, including closing the county-run juvenile center, and to ensure the PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care flourished. Ciavarella, the county’s longtime juvenile judge, was accused of sending juveniles there, even when probation officers recommended the child be sent home.

In the Wallace case, the girl, who was then 14, was charged after she posted a threatening message about another teen on a myspace.com page.

The suit says Flo Wallace was persuaded to allow her daughter to appear before the judge without an attorney. Wallace was told her daughter would get three to six months probation if she admitted guilt, but if she didn’t, the judge would be “a lot harder on her” and would hold her until she was age 18.

The suit alleges the Wallace case is reflective of a conspiracy among the defendants to “adjudicate juvenile offenders delinquent without assistance of counsel.”

William Conway, one of the 13 juveniles suing the judges through Dyller, was found delinquent by Ciavarella in 2003. Conway was sentenced to six months in PA Child Care, which created a plaque with Conway’s name “to commensurate him as an early customer,” Dyller’s complaint says.

Dyller alleged Ciavarella failed to disclose that he had a conflict and a financial interest in PA Child Care when he sentenced Conway and other juveniles to the juvenile detention facilities.

In a statement released earlier this week by his attorneys, Powell acknowledged he had paid money to Ciavarella and Conahan, but said he was coerced into doing so out of fear of the power the judges wielded. He denied influencing the judges in any way regarding sentencing of juveniles.

“My client vigorously denies he participated in a contract or any kind of agreement with the judges or anyone else to violate any person’s civil rights,” Mark Sheppard, one of Powell’s attorneys, said Friday.

Dan Fee, spokesman for Zappala, declined to comment, as did Al Flora, attorney for Ciavarella. Mericle’s attorney, Lew Sebia, did not return a phone message Friday
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Old 02-15-2009, 11:55 AM   #8
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I thought perhaps to enlarge this to a judicial thread rather than limit it to just this one case. Both for good judges and bad judges, good judicial decisions and bad ones, etc.; something to follow the courts.


New York Times

February 15, 2009
Case May Alter Judge Elections Across Country
MATEWAN, W.Va. — Don L. Blankenship, the chief executive of the nation’s fourth-biggest coal mining company, is not shy about putting his money where his mouth is when it comes to West Virginia politics.

In 2004, he spent $3 million on tough advertisements attacking a justice of the State Supreme Court who was seeking re-election. Some of the advertisements said the justice had agreed to free a sex offender.

“I thought we would beat him more easily than we did,” Mr. Blankenship said, reflecting on how hard it was to persuade voters.

Brent D. Benjamin won that election and went on to join the 3-to-2 majority that threw out a $50 million jury verdict against Mr. Blankenship’s company, Massey Energy.

The question of whether Justice Benjamin should have disqualified himself is now before the United States Supreme Court.

The case, one of the most important of the term, has the potential to change the way judicial elections are conducted and the way cases are heard in the 39 states that elect at least some of their judges. In many states, campaigns for court seats these days rival in both expense and venom what goes on in, say, a governor’s race. Yet it is commonplace in American courtrooms for judges to hear cases involving lawyers and litigants who have contributed to or spent money to support their campaigns.

Mr. Blankenship, a large man with small eyes that betray nothing, does not often sit for interviews. When ABC News tried to ask him questions last year about pictures showing him in Monte Carlo with yet another State Supreme Court justice, he shoved a cameraman and suggested that someone was “liable to get shot” if the journalists persisted.

But Mr. Blankenship seemed eager to tell his side of things over a barbecue chicken lunch in a restaurant here and in the warren of trailers that serve as his office just over the Kentucky line. It is just foolishness, he said, to think that he had spent millions of dollars to gain an advantage in a particular case.

“I’ve been around West Virginia long enough to know that politicians don’t stay bought, particularly ones that are going to be in office for 12 years,” he said, referring to the terms of State Supreme Court justices. “So I would never go out and spend money to try to gain favor with a politician. Eliminating a bad politician makes sense. Electing somebody hoping he’s going to be in your favor doesn’t make any sense at all.”

“Massey always has cases,” he added. Indeed, the company is a frequent plaintiff, and it has attracted lawsuits over environmental, workplace safety and labor issues.

“If someone wanted to accuse me of something,” Mr. Blankenship continued, “they would accuse me of trying to elect Benjamin to rule in our favor in hundreds of cases, not one case.”

But that is precisely what some people here, including a retired member of the State Supreme Court, say happened. “We have one justice who was bought by Don Blankenship,” Justice Larry V. Starcher said of Justice Benjamin in 2006, while the two men were colleagues on the court. “It makes me want to puke.”

When the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in November, much of the legal establishment cheered. Here was an opportunity, bar associations and law professors said, to draw a line separating big money from judicial decision making.

But briefs from Massey and its supporters suggest that the case, Caperton v. A. T. Massey Coal, No. 08-22, which will be argued on March 3, is more complicated than it first appears.

Mr. Blankenship was, for starters, not a party to the state court fraud case that gave rise to the $50 million verdict. He is not an especially large shareholder of Massey, and he does not stand to win or lose very much — about $175,000, by Massey’s estimates — from its outcome.

On the other hand, Massey has paid Mr. Blankenship handsomely over the years — $23.7 million in salary, bonus, options and other compensation in 2007, by some estimates — and it is hard to disentangle his interests from those of the company.

His direct contribution to the Benjamin campaign was only $1,000, although that is the maximum allowed by law, and he spent most of the $3 million, paid from his own pocket, on television advertisements aimed at defeating the incumbent justice, Warren R. McGraw.

Mr. Blankenship said he was surprised they were not even more effective. “When you’ve got to choose between a guy who released a pedophile and a coal executive, it’s a tossup,” he said.

Mr. Blankenship, who has long been an active participant in the state’s political life, said he had no social or other relationship with Justice Benjamin, who has voted against Massey at least five times.

“Brent Benjamin, rightfully or wrongfully, thinks I had nothing to do with his election,” Mr. Blankenship said.

Justice Benjamin, now the court’s chief justice, declined to be interviewed for this article. In rulings discussing whether he should have disqualified himself from the case, he said he could be fair and impartial.

In a memorandum on Jan. 30, though, Chief Justice Benjamin did temporarily disqualify himself from all Massey cases, saying “it would be personally and judicially disrespectful to the United States Supreme Court and its justices for me to proceed.”

Lawyers for Massey suggest that the case is a Trojan horse whose real intent is to do away with judicial elections because any spending in such elections is suspect. “Any impartiality concerns raised by campaign spending are inherent in the state’s decision to hold judicial elections,” James Bopp Jr. wrote in a brief supporting Massey for the James Madison Center for Free Speech.

The briefs on Massey’s side add that states should be allowed to run their legal systems as they see fit. It would be impossible, they say, to fashion a sensible rule to determine when contributions or independent expenditures should require recusal under the federal Constitution’s due process clause. The other side says it has no problem with elections or financial support. But in rare cases involving especially large amounts from the people involved, they say, judges should be required to disqualify themselves.

Mr. Blankenship’s advertisements, which said Justice McGraw had released a pedophile, were rough and arguably misleading. They concerned a youth who had been sexually abused from the age of 7 by two adult family members and a teacher before going on, at the age of 14, to abuse a younger half-brother. The youth was released on probation soon after he turned 18.

“I’m just a West Virginia country lawyer running for office,” Justice McGraw said. Of the advertisements, he said: “They say our court set a child molester loose in our schools. It’s absolutely untrue. I’m embarrassed to go out in public. They’ve absolutely destroyed me.”

Mr. Blankenship cheerfully conceded that his real objection was to Justice McGraw’s rulings against corporate defendants. “Being the street fighter that I am,” he said, he had instructed his aides to find a decision that would enrage the public.

When they returned with an unsigned opinion in the sex abuse case, which Justice McGraw had joined, Mr. Blankenship said he knew he had hit pay dirt. “That killed him,” Mr. Blankenship said of Justice McGraw, smiling.
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Old 02-24-2009, 05:43 PM   #9
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Further updates on the Luzerne County Courthouse scandal:

Probation Services Assistant Director (actually it's like a 12 word title) was arrested and faces a 20 year sentence for doctoring one of the juvenile probation records after the judges were arrested. She requested the record. An alert clerk notified a superior who had the file copied before the director was given the file so the alteration was quickly found.

Prothonatary (and law partner of the attorney named for bribing the judges) was told to resign from her position and cooperate with federal authorities or face indictment.

Acting controller was arrested for drunk driving (with his pants down around his ankles) and attempted to resist arrest. Although he was not elected, but was chosen as the deputy controller and took over as the acting controller when the former controller became the county commissioner, he cannot be fired since it is technically an elected position. The governor had declined to name a controller.
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Old 09-11-2009, 11:59 AM   #10
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National Briefing | Mid-Atlantic
Pennsylvania: New Indictments
Two former county judges whose plea deal in a kickback scheme involving juvenile offenders was rejected will now face a 48-count indictment as federal prosecutors ratcheted up their pursuit of the case. The former judges, Mark Ciavarella Jr. and Michael Conahan, of Luzerne County, pleaded guilty in February to two counts — honest-services fraud and tax evasion — in a deal that called for a sentence of 87 months in prison, far below federal guidelines. A federal judge rejected the deal last month. The two former judges are accused of taking $2.8 million in kickbacks to place youth offenders in two private detention centers. The new indictment includes charges of racketeering, extortion, bribery, money laundering and fraud.
Feds are indicting under RICO.
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Old 10-08-2009, 08:03 AM   #11
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This is part of Capitalism: A Love Story
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Old 10-08-2009, 09:57 AM   #12
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His staff was here, interviewing the juveniles, and asked for pictures of the two judges.
They are supposed to go to trial in 2010.

The FBI are buying homes here. Seriously. They're going into the courthouse (rumor has it another judge might be going down), school districts for selling teaching jobs, community college, Sanitary Authority, investigating Lackawanna County former commissioner -- the one who brought in Triple A Yankees () and endangered counties' ownership of the franchise. I believe there have been 14 arrests so far. Another judge is in major danger of losing his retention bid and another is in slightly less trouble, but still might happen.
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Old 10-15-2009, 02:06 AM   #13
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How these judges handled their courtroom (and why the prosecutors and the few defense attorneys looked the other way) is the subject of a juvenile commission investigation.
So I thought I'd post a transcript of a juvenile hearing conducted by one of the cash for kids judges because a couple of people (thanks, Mrs. S.) have shown some interest in it.


The Times Leader

October 15
Transcript offers look into system

The following is the complete transcript of one of the juvenile court hearings held by former court judge Mark Ciavarella. The transcript was read by President Judge Chester Muroski at the first hearing of the Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice, which was formed to investigate failings with the county’s juvenile court system.

In the interest of: H.T., a juvenile, Juvenile No. (redacted)

Transcript of proceedings:

Before: The Honorable Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., P.J.


On behalf of the Commonwealth: Thomas Killino, esquire

On behalf of the juvenile: Unrepresented

Juvenile Officer: Case No. (redacted) all parties please step forward.

(Whereupon all parties were sworn en masse.)

CIAVARELLA: (Redacted) you’ve been charged with harassment, how do you wish to plead?


CIAVARELLA: Based upon her admission, I’ll adjudicate her delinquent. What makes you think you have the right to do this kind of crap?

JUVENILE: I don’t, sir.

CIAVARELLA: Why would you do this?

JUVENILE: I have no rationale explanation for that. I –

CIAVARELLA: Did Miss (redacted) ever do anything to you?

JUVENILE: Not personally, no. I didn’t take into consideration that Miss – is a person as opposed to just a school administration member at my school.

CIAVARELLA: How long have you been at Crestwood?

JUVENILE: A year and a half.

CIAVARELLA: What grade are you in?

JUVENILE: I’m in my sophomore year, tenth grade.

CIAVARELLA: Where did you go before?

JUVENILE: (redacted) High School.

CIAVARELLA: You’ve been at (redacted) when I’ve been at (redacted).


CIAVARELLA: You heard me speak?


CIAVARELLA: You heard me speak?


CIAVARELLA: Told you what type of conduct I expected from children in that school relative to the juvenile justice system?

JUVENILE: Yes, sir.

CIAVARELLA: Told you what conduct I expected from the students in that school relative to their conduct towards teachers?

JUVENILE: Yes, sir.

CIAVARELLA: Is this acceptable?

JUVENILE: No, sir.

CIAVARELLA: What did I say would happen if you acted in an unacceptable way towards teachers and/or administrators?

JUVENILE: I don’t recall, sir.

CIAVARELLA: You don’t recall? You don’t remember me saying that if you did any of these things to a teacher, that I would send you away? You don’t remember those words?

JUVENILE: No, sir.

CIAVARELLA: Were you sleeping?

JUVENILE: No, sir.

CIAVARELLA: You can’t remember that?

JUVENILE: No, sir.

CIAVARELLA: It’s going to come back to you because I didn’t go to that school, I didn’t walk into that school and I didn’t speak to that student body just to scare you, just to blow smoke, just to make you think that I would do that when I wouldn’t. I’m a man of my word. You’re gone. Send her up to FACT. Let her stay there until she figures it out. Thank you.

MOTHER OF JUVENILE: No, that’s not fair. That’s not what the officer said. That’s not what he said.

CIAVARELLA: Thank you.

(Whereupon, the proceedings were concluded).
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Old 10-15-2009, 02:35 AM   #14
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And another article.

HARRISBURG - Testifying before a state juvenile commission this morning, Luzerne County President Judge Chester Muroski spent the bulk of his time explaining and defending why he and other county judges failed to detect that something was amiss in the county’s juvenile court system under former judge Mark Ciavarella.
“There has been considerable media and public criticism about ‘why didn’t the judges do anything – they had to know,’” Muroski told the Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice.

The answer, he said, lies partly in the secrecy of juvenile hearings, nearly all of which are held behind closed doors. It also lies in the fact that those who were in those hearings – prosecutors, defense attorneys and probation officials – did not come forward to express concerns.

The reality, Muroski said, is that some people, particularly school administrators who routinely dealt with troublesome youths, supported Ciavarella’s “zero tolerance” policy of incarcerating youths for any offense committed at school, no matter how minor.

“We knew something might not be right with what Ciavarella was doing. But you have to understand. The public perception was a good perception. Some people admired him,” Muroski said.

Muroski said he did not begin to have serious concerns until 2006. At the time he was presiding over juvenile dependency court, which involves making decisions regarding whether an abused or neglected child should remain with their parents or be placed in foster care.

Muroski said he was concerned that the high placement rate for juvenile delinquents was sapping too much money from dependency court, causing delays in parents getting necessary counseling. When he complained, then president Judge Michael Conahan reassigned him to criminal court.

That action coupled with skyrocketing placement rates and his knowledge of the opulent lifestyle Conahan and Ciavarella were leading – as evidenced by their Florida condominium - raised his suspicions to the point that he went to the FBI.

Muroski also detailed some changes that have been made within the juvenile court system that he believes will help prevent abuses in the future.

At his direction, the juvenile probation department has increased scrutiny over delinquency petitions filed by school districts to ensure they warrant court action. Those officials have also been put on notice that the “zero tolerance” policy is no more.

Muroski said Judge David Lupas is also ensuring all juveniles are represented by an attorney and is closely analyzing cases, resulting in far more juveniles receiving help through alternative programs rather than out-of-home placemen
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Old 10-29-2009, 05:12 PM   #15
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Times Leader 10/29/09


HARRISBURG - The state Supreme Court today vacated the convictions of all juveniles who appeared before former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella from Jan. 1, 2003 to May 31, 2009 and barred the retrial of all but a handful of those cases.

The ruling, issued this afternoon, essentially adopts in total the report submitted by Berks County Judge Arthur Grim, who was appointed in February to review juvenile cases following the arrest of Ciavarella and Judge Michael Conahan on corruption charges.

In issuing the ruling, the high court said it agreed with Grim's assessment that Ciavarella had shown a "complete disregard for the constitutional rights of juveniles who appeared before him."

"We conclude that the record supports Judge Grim's determination that Ciavarella knew he was violating both the law and the procedural rules promulgated by this court applicable when adjudicating the merits of juvenile cases without the knowing, intelligent and voluntary waiver of counsel by the juveniles," the court wrote.

Grim had also recommended that Luzerne County District Attorney's office be barred from retrying all but a handful of cases based on the double jeopardy statute, a constitutional prohibition against trying a person twice for the same crime. Grim based that recommendation on his finding that Ciavarella engaged in intentional conduct meant to deprive juveniles of their rights. That triggered the double jeopardy statute, he said.

The Supreme Court agreed with Grim that the vast majority of cases cannot be retried, but declined to adopt Grim's reasoning regarding the double jeopardy statute. The court instead said it was granting that relief solely "in the interest of justice."

The only cases that will be permitted to be retried involve juveniles who were represented by counsel and who are still serving a sentence of incarceration or who are on probation or owe fines. In those cases, the District Attorney's office has been directed to notify Grim of which cases it wishes to re-prosecute. He will then make determinations in each case.
According to the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia, who is representing the juveniles, this order covers approximately 6000 cases.

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