Former Pennsylvania juvenile court judge Mark Ciavarella is seen as the pitiless overseer of a cutthroat courtroom in which he conspired with another judge to grow rich upon the suffering of children, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. Starting Monday, Ciavarella, 60, will get his chance to redeem his name as jury selection in his federal corruption trial gets under way, two years after the socalled kids-for-cash scandal exploded in northeastern Pennsylvania. Prosecutors say Ciavarella and former Judge Michael Conahan took in $2.9 million in exchange for shipping children and teenagers to forprofit detention centers.
It is expected to be the climax of a scandal that has mushroomed month by month. In all, federal prosecutors have brought charges against nearly 30 officials, including a third county judge, numerous court officials, a state senator, school board members, and county officials. Marcia Levick of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia calls it “the most serious judicial scandal in the history of the United States.” The state Supreme Court has agreed to wipe out the criminal records of up to 4,000 youngsters whose cases were tainted over five years in Ciavarella's courtroom. Unless Ciavarella decides to plead guilty, the trial should “air a lot of dirty laundry that perhaps has not seen the light of day yet,” said Ronald Santora, a lawyer for a former judge who had raised questions about Conahan.