Pennsylvania should open its juvenile courtrooms more widely to the public and prevent young suspects from waiving their rights to a lawyer when charged with a crime, advocates told an investigative panel yesterday, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Witnesses urged changes to prevent a repeat of the “kids for cash” judicial scandal in Luzerne County. The state Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission is supporting a bill that would open all juvenile court hearings to the public and news reporters except for extreme cases that judges believe would need to be conducted behind closed doors. News outlets would be prohibited from disclosing the names of minors.
Robert Schwartz of the Juvenile Law Center told the Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice that what happened in Luzerne “was a toxic combination of for-profit facilities, corrupt judges, and professional indifference. It was the Love Canal of juvenile courts.” Schwartz’s group was among the first to question the practices of former Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, who are accused of collecting $2.6 million in kickbacks for sending thousands of juveniles to two private detention centers.