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Legal Ethics

2 Disgraced Pa. Jurists Ask Fed’l Judge to Reconsider Nixed Plea

Posted Aug 21, 2009 1:51 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Two former Pennsylvania jurists whose conditional guilty pleas to corruption charges and agreed 87-month prison term were nixed by a federal judge late last month are now asking him to reinstate their pleas.

In a joint filing yesterday, former Luzerne County president judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. and senior judge Michael Conahan argue that they followed the rules in their post-plea conduct and did not attempt to "obstruct and impede justice" or contradict the government's evidence in public comments, reports the Legal Intelligencer.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Edwin Kosik cited Conahan's objections to a pre-sentence investigation report and Ciavarella's denial that there was a "quid pro quo" in exchange for the $2.6 million in kickbacks that the two judges admittedly accepted from an attorney owner and the builder of a juvenile detention facility to which the judges sent individuals who appeared before them.

But Conahan's objections were appropriate, and the honest services fraud to which Ciavarella agreed to plead involved an undisclosed conflict of interest rather than quid-pro-quo bribery, the two former judges argue in a 12-page memorandum filed by their legal counsel.

Meanwhile, federal investigations continue, the legal publication reports, into allegations of case-fixing in criminal and uninsured/underinsured motorist arbitrations in Luzerne County.

Earlier related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Reverse $3.5M Verdict Due to Taint of Corrupt Judges, Overseer Tells Top Pa. Court"

ABAJournal.com: "Void All Juvenile Rulings By Corrupt Pa. Judge, Overseer Tells Top State Court"

ABAJournal.com: "Luzerne, Pa., Arb Rules Change, as Judge Is Probed Over Panel Appointments"


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