The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has appointed an outside judge to review potentially thousands of cases that were handled by Luzerne County juvenile court judge Mark Ciavarella dating back to 2003. The Wilkes Barre Times Leader said the high court wants to ensure a thorough review is conducted of all cases to determine whether a “travesty of juvenile justice” occurred under Ciavarella's tenure, and, if so, to take whatever action is necessary to provide relief to the affected juveniles.
Ciavarella and Judge Michael Conahan are expected to plead guilty today in connecton with charges that they profited from Ciavarella's sentencing of juveniles to detention centers once owned by Butler Township attorney Robert Powell. The judges are suspected of accepting more than $2.6 million in kickbacks in exchange for rulings that benefited the detention centers. The Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia asked the court to review Luzerne County cases after data showed that more than 50 percent of children who appeared before Ciavarella in 2005 and 2006 were not represented by an attorney. The county's juvenile detention placement rate was also significantly higher than the state average.