PA Panel Tries To Unravel Evolution Of “Kangaroo Court” For Youth


A monumental task faces a special 11-member Pennsylvania commission investigating the Luzerne County juvenile court scandal, what one advocacy group called “one of the largest and most serious violations of children’s rights in the history of the American legal system,” reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. The group is trying to determine how it could happen, how a similar problem can be prevented – and why no one spoke up. Superior Court Judge John Cleland, chairman of the Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice, said the goal is to identify “those who knew but failed to speak” and “those who saw but failed to act.”

While it cannot indict or prosecute, the commission is empowered to investigate and recommend legislation, rules, and other procedural changes. Two judges had agreed to plead guilty to lesser charges that called for 87-month prison sentences, far below federal guidelines. A federal judge rejected the deal and said the two judges had not fully accepted responsibility. They switched their pleas to not guilty, and prosecutors secured a 48-count indictment that includes racketeering, bribery, and extortion charges. The Inquirer reviews what the record shows about an apparent “kangaroo court.”

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