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Pa. judges accused of jailing kids for cash


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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.

Read the rest HERE

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I read about this a couple of days ago, and I couldn't help think about the impact on the teenagers involved -- being sent into detention for relatively minor infractions. Some of them would have been emotionally scarred as a consequence....

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I read about this a couple of days ago, and I couldn't help think about the impact on the teenagers involved -- being sent into detention for relatively minor infractions. Some of them would have been emotionally scarred as a consequence....

I have to agree with Cole. I could never come up with a story that is so unbelievable like this one. How in the world did it happen? I guess it did. We, as a culture, have obsoletely no understand of how we influence our future as a society by what we do. These kids (teenagers) will be part of us when they're released. Can they now (given the negative view coming from what they're taught) be productive or even life fulfilling. i doubt it.

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Judges occupy a place in our society that is unique and powerful.

They routinely decide the fate of men/women and make decisions that effect their entire future.

When they do something like this, to kids no less, with no thought to their guilt or innocence and without counsel or due process, they have betrayed a very sacred trust.

They should get the maximum sentence for the numerous state and federal charges which they can and should be charged with.

The problem here is when you've got a bad judge, how long has he been dirty and how many cases and people has this affected.

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Like others here, when I first read the story in the paper a few days ago, my thoughts were immediately on the kids, and how they would react to this. I can vividly remember when I was a teen, and learning daily a message that I didn't accept then and still don't today: life isn't fair. That's such, such a difficult lesson for a teen to learn. And learning it colors his perspective for the rest of his life, as Richard says. I've always gone overboard, in dealing with teens, to show them that some adults care, and some adults treat them fairly, even when it isn't necessary. I'm sure there are a lot of adults like that. But we keep being reminded that there are the other kind, too.

James mentioned how powerful a judge can be. My problem is, we elect these guys. I vote them in or out. And I really don't know them. I don't know the good or bad ones. There are five or six judges running for every position up for selection on the ballot. It's probably possible to know more, but I read the papers, I'm about as responsible as the next guy, but I could easily be guilty for electing judges like that.

What a terrible thought.


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When the judicial system breaks down we all suffer.

It happened in Nazi Germany and looked what happened as a result.

It is even worse when the state, and I won't name the nations, adopt a reactionary attitude to controlling crime by removing the basic human rights of the suspect, such as bypassing Habeas corpus, denial of counsel, ignoring the right for presumption of innocence, and the avoidance of due process.

So far as I can see from the article the judges have been arrested and will be tried. Until a verdict is handed down by the court, these judges, are only defendants. Whilst I feel revulsion at what has happened, the system that has been put in place must now be seen to act in the best interests of justice for victim and defendant. If found guilty, I would think the defendant judges' crimes should attract penalties at the maximum end of the scale.

If the system breaks down at this point through a miscarriage of justice for either victims or defendants, then the system must ripped a new one with no hesitation.

Presumption of guilt is nothing more than mob rule mentality whether it is one man or many. Manipulation of a justice system for personal gain is abhorrent in the extreme.

Breakdown of the ability to ensure just determination of guilt or innocence is dangerously close to the corruption of the protections that the system is supposed to safeguard.

This case is extremely serious, but from what I see happening in other places it is merely the most personal form of the abuse of a justice system. Worse is the denial of the human rights of whole nations for political or religious reasons. That is nothing more than the fascist mentality running amok, disguised as justice.

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There is no such thing as the presumption of innocence anymore.

If you appear before a judge charged with anything, it's up to you to prove your innocence.

You'll get all the justice you can afford.

If the district attorney has a weak case, he'll delay the trial up to 4 years. Unless you are wealthy very few people can hold out that long and will take a plea.

If you do go to trial, the prosecutor has millions at his disposal for expert witnesses. You have what you can afford.

Unless you are a rich celebrity once you are charged and go to court, the press assumes that you are guilty.

So- unless you are a millionaire or a celeb with a cult following, don't you dare get charged with a crime or you'll soon learn that all those "rights" that you though you had are just so much BS.

Don't blame it on Bush- this is at the state level and has been done by grandstanding politicians who want their face time in the press being tough on crime.

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Yet, with all that being said, it's still surprising how many times a jury will find for the defendent, and will tell the press afterward that the prosecution didn't make a strong enough case for guilt, and without that, they refused to convict.


Unfortunately the right or ability to get a jury trial is also disappearing.

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I've been selected (read ordered) for jury duty five times in my life. I sat three times and was thrown out twice on a preemptive. Each time I sat on a jury, the one thing that really hit home to me was that the system works. I really felt that we, the jury, were trying to do our best. Maybe I was lucky to get the judges that I did, but his instructions were for justice first, that the defendant is truly innocent until proven guilty. I think maybe I was lucky.

But James, I have to only partially agree with you. Some courts don't work, but I cannot say that all of them don't work. I've seen them. It's a never say never or never say always thing, just never lump all into a single category. Some work, and some don't. Fight the ones that don't.

Our system isn't perfect, but we have the option to try to change the parts that are wrong.

Pessimism will get you an early grave, and Pollyanna optimism will also get you there. We just do what we can without giving up.

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I have been called for jury duty four times but have never been seated.

The last time I went, I asked the Circuit Clerk why. She told me that DA's don't like jurors with a university degree because they ask tough questions and defense lawyers don't like professional men because they are often angry that they are losing money.

The last time I got a jury summons, I threw it in the trash.

Watching lawyers jerk each other off (and everyone else) is enough to make a sane person claw their eyes out.

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I've had somewhat the same situation, James. I get called almost every year, but with the new LA system, I call in every day of my service period to see if I have to go in for jury selection that day, and most days I don't have to report.

This year I went in on the last of the five days we're responsible for. And was immediately put on a panel. During voir dire, I asked if I could know the defendants' ages, because they didn't all look over 18 to me. The attorney wanted to know why I wanted to know, so I spent about five minutes educing on my feelings of trying underage defendants as adults.

I was the first one excused by the defense's peremptory challenge.

I never did get to know their ages, but from the dismissal, I guess all three defendants were over 18.

You're right, James. They don't want people who can think for themselves. They want jury members whom they can sway with their eloquence.


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I am, frankly, appalled, and this points up one of the glaring problems with "privatizing" the penal system.

These two judges should be publicly horsewhipped, on national TV, and then sentenced to extended terms in the same system they used to line their pockets. While I'm on a roll, the heads of the companies involved should face the same punishment. All found to be involved should forfeit 100% of their cash and assets, which should be used to repair some of the damage done to hundreds, if not thousands, of young lives.

Public corruption, especially at this level, must be aggressively prosecuted and examples made to serve as examples to anyone else thinking this might be a good way to increase their salaries.

Moving back into the real world, however, the best we can expect to happen is that the judges will resign and be disbarred. Neither of these scum-buckets will serve a day of jail time. The people involved on the corporate side will hide behind some corporate entity, and no-one on that end will even be indicted: mark my words. That this is the reality of the situation makes me sick to my stomach.

What a distortion of the golden rule: He who has the gold, makes the rules. :hug:


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One of the big problems that I see with the courts is that in the US, at the state level, judges are elected.

Lawyers tell me that this politicizes the position and judges are pressured to deliver convictions, be tough on crime and clear cases. If a judge throws out bad cases or cases with serious procedural or legal issues, they will hear about it at election time. Elected Judges often allow appeals courts to deal with the procedural or legal errors rather than follow the letter of the law.

In our last election a candidate for judge ran TV adds like this:

Judge Joe-Bob let a Rapist Go! because he was found NOT GUILTY but that wasn't in the add

Judge Joe-Bob Was Lenient With Drug Offenders because he sent cases to drug court where they belonged.

Judge Joe-Bob Let a Child Molester Go! to a mental hospital because he was nuts and belonged in a mental hospital and wasn't competent to stand trial or know what he was doing.

Judge Joe-Bob lost of course. No one read past the grandstanding and headlines. The results were that a good judge lost his seat and a sleeze who was happy to use distortions to win is now sitting in it.

Judges have the impossible task of following the law and running for office.

I'm not exactly sure what the alternatives are but we've simply got to do better. Elected judges have a built in conflict of interest between the ethic of innocent until proven guilty and public opinion (ignorance). We need judges that serve the law- NOT the electorate because these two masters are fundamentally at odds. The mob wants a pound of flesh and the law requires due process.

If you ever have to stand in front of a judge, which type would you rather it be: one concerned about elections and his conviction rates or one concerned about following the law regardless of whether or not the verdict satisfies the electorates blood-lust?

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James, I held back saying anything out of respect for the US practice of electing judges, being the way you do things there.

However, my first thought was about the corruption of the judiciary via the election process such as you have described.

In Australia our judges and magistrates are appointed by the government of the day and selected from Senior Counsel who have shown themselves to be jurists of the highest integrity, intellect and with a passion for the law and the quality of compassion if not mercy. The appointments are made under a guideline of alternate political affiliations. So if the last judge was from a left political leaning then the next would be taken from the right. This is not always adhered to, sometimes a genuine moderate is also appointed. (We once had a communist appointed to the bench, and he showed himself to be very fair and just.)

Once a judge is appointed he can only be removed by criminal charges being proven or he reaches the age of 70, whichever comes first. :hug:

This gives a great deal of separation between politics and the judiciary.

The politicians make the law, the police prosecute under those laws, and the accused is sent to trial before the judge(s) and jury where applicable.

Our system is not perfect, we still have our share of colorful characters as well some of the usual assortment of reactionary attitudes, police sympathisers, and child molesters, within our judiciary. (Yes you read that correctly).

What we do not have is the mob mentality selecting the judge, and certainly not on the issues that you describe. We reserve the mob mentality for newspaper editors, minorities seeking to impose their interpretation of God's Will, and the general elections of our politicians in what seems to us to be an honest democratic process.

Realistically it is a reasonable system, but certainly not perfect. Bu it is far preferable to trial by torment, military juntas, or at the mercy of the monarch's mood, and in my opinion, superior to the judiciary being elected.

I will add that at present the balances of justice, corruption, and mercy are in a fragile if not perilous position all around the world.

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For the most part, the Canadian judiciary is the same way as in Australia. One of the big complaints often heard is that the judiciary seem to run against the 'will' of the people and 'government' and keep making these unfair decisions. However, when you look at it, they are making logical and legal decisions, not 'popular' decisions, and I much prefer that. Sadly, there is more to the issue here, as there are laws which require release of prisoners (parole) after specific amounts of their sentence has been served, and the judges have no say at all in this. So, prisoners who are known to be a danger to society are released, only to offend again, often within days of release. The victims and their families cry out, the public cries out, but in this case the judges could not do anything different, as the law forced them to release the criminal.

I don't think that there is any good way to make it work. The whole thing, crime and rehabilitation and justice, is based around goodwill and concern on all fronts, and frankly, there is very little of that left these days, with self interest being the great motivator for just about everyone involved in any way at all, from the 'dark side' to the supposedly 'good side'.

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I'm sure I don't have to point out that reason the Pennsylvania judge fiasco is so shocking is that it is also so unusual. These reprehensible scum don't represent the vast majority of judges in this country.

We have a country that on the whole is fairly divided between liberals and conservatives. This isn't true state by state, but is nationally. Judges, however, for the most part are elected locally and by state electorates, so in conservative states, we often end up with conservative judges, and in liberal states, liberal judges.

However, the political aspects of their personal feelings aside, we have boards that review judicial decisions. All judges are vetted, constantly, and their marks are made known during elections. We hold the law to be our beacon, and our system of justice, while obviously not perfect, is frequently held to be a model for other countries to emulate.


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The United States is falling apart because of corruption at every level of goverenment. It is endemic, corrosive and enervating to our goverenment and instutions. The people have gotten so sick of endemic corruption that is dismissed with a nod and a wink they have no faith in the system.

Corruption is in the process of destroying our economy and it is obvious and widespread within the state and federal goverenments. Confidence in our legal and gov't instutions is at an all time low. This simply can not go on forever. A reckoning is coming soon and it is going to be ugly.

NOT IF BUT WHEN it implodes, I hope the revolutionaries hang the right people this time.

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The United States is falling apart because of corruption at every level of goverenment. It is endemic, corrosive and enervating to our goverenment and instutions. The people have gotten so sick of endemic corruption that is dismissed with a nod and a wink they have no faith in the system.

Corruption is in the process of destroying our economy and it is obvious and widespread within the state and federal governments. Confidence in our legal and gov't intuitions is at an all time low. This simply can not go on forever. A reckoning is coming soon and it is going to be ugly.

NOT IF BUT WHEN it implodes, I hope the revolutionaries hang the right people this time.

I'm sorry James, but I couldn't disagree with you more. We're not falling apart, we're regrouping, as we should. I don't feel that we should attack our society without some way to get out of the mess we're in. Please offer one. And I don't want to hear dooms day stories. What should we do to make it right? What are your ideas? Should we have a revolution? And do you really believe that?

I have faith in the system because I have a vote that I can exercise. Yes, corruption happens. Then stop it by your vote. Do what you can.

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  • 1 month later...

Follow up --

From the LA Times, 2/27/09:

Juvenile convictions tossed in kickback case

The state Supreme Court overturned hundreds of juvenile convictions issued by a corrupt judge who took millions of dollars in kickbacks from youth detention centers. The court ruled that former Luzerne County President Judge Mark Ciavarella violated the constitutional rights of youthful offenders who appeared in his courtroom without lawyers between 2003 and 2008.

Federal prosecutors charged Ciavarella and another Luzerne County judge, Michael Conahan, with taking $2.6 million in payoffs to put juvenile offenders in privately owned lockups.

The judges pleaded guilty to fraud last month and face sentences of more than seven years in prison.

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