Legal Ethics

Top Pa. Court Vacates 6,000+ Juvenile Rulings By Ex-Luzerne County Judge

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court today issued an order vacating all juvenile rulings between 2003 and 2008 by former Luzerne County President Judge Mark Ciavarella.

The order, which bars retrial of all but a tiny fraction of the rulings, is expected to affect up to 6,500 cases, reports the On Deadline blog of USA Today.

Ciavarella, along with another former Luzerne County judge, faces federal racketeering charges for allegedly accepting $2.8 million in kickbacks from a former owner of a private juvenile detention center, as the Associated Press recounts. Critics contend there appeared to be a connection between the bribes and what the supreme court describes in its opinion as Ciavarella’s “complete disregard” for juveniles’ constitutional rights during court hearings.

“Ciavarella’s admission that he received these payments, and that he failed to disclose his financial interests arising from the development of the juvenile facilities, thoroughly undermines the integrity of all juvenile proceedings before Ciavarella,” the court states in its opinion (PDF), to which the Citizens Voice provides a link.

Additional and related coverage:

ABA Journal: “Town Without Pity” (Aug. 2009): “Federal Judge Again Rejects Guilty Pleas of 2 Former Pa. Judges”

Standard Speaker: “Supreme Court vacates all Ciavarella juvenile cases”

Times Leader: “DA, defender offices take criticism at hearing”

Times Leader: “Judge flap: Who is liable?”

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