January 30, 2009

NOT THE JUDICIARY’S FINEST HOUR:

The setting is Pennsylvania coal country, but it’s a story right out of Dickens’ grim 19th-century landscape: Two of Luzerne County’s most senior judges on Monday were accused of sending children to jail in return for kickbacks.

The judges, Luzerne County President Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., 58, and his predecessor, Senior Judge Michael T. Conahan, 56, will serve seven years in jail under a plea agreement.

They’re alleged to have pocketed $2.6 million in payments from juvenile detention center operators. . . .In asking the court to intervene in April, the law center cited hundreds of examples where teens accused of minor mischief were pressured to waive their right to lawyers, and then shipped to a detention center.

One teen was given a 90-day sentence for having parodied a school administrator online. Such unwarranted detentions left “both children and parents feeling bewildered, violated and traumatized,” center lawyers said.

“Very few people would stand up” to the Luzerne judges, according to the law center’s executive director, Robert G. Schwartz.

Obviously, we need more people willing to insist on their rights. These guys should be tarred and feathered.

UPDATE: Various readers point out that this is another case of Name That Party! Reader Paul Risenhoover adds: “Since they didn’t name it, I knew they were Democrats.” Ouch.

ANOTHER UPDATE: “I wonder why the Inquirer didn’t tell us this?”