Posted Feb 13, 2009 07:17 pm CST
Two Pennsylvania judges accused by federal prosecutors of accepting $2.6 million in kickbacks to jail juveniles in privately owned detention facilities are now being sued for damages.
In the first of several expected lawsuits seeking class-action status, a federal complaint was filed yesterday contending that juveniles incarcerated under the scheme and their families are entitled to damages, reports the Associated Press.
It alleges that Luzerne County judges Mark Ciavarella Jr. and Michael Conahan, “acting under the cloak of the court,” willfully and knowingly engaged in racketeering activity and deprived juvenile defendants of their civil rights, reports the Times-Tribune.
In addition to Ciavarella and Conahan, who have been suspended and agreed to resign under their guilty pleas in a related criminal case, the complaint also names the judges’ wives, attorney Robert Powell and his Drums, Pa.-based law firm, a “Joe Doe” attorney, and eight additional defendants, according to the newspaper.
Powell, a former co-owner of two juvenile detention facilities at issue in the case, is accused in the suit of being one of the parties who paid kickbacks. However, his lawyer says Powell was a victim of the judges’ extortion scheme, the AP reports.
“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,” says attorney Michael Cefalo of West Pittston in a written statement today.
He filed the suit for the plaintiffs, along with attorneys William Caroselli of Pittsburgh and David Senoff of Philadelphia, the Times-Tribune reports.
Earlier ABAJournal.com coverage: