Luzerne County’s

      Attorneys are often their own worst enemies in the realm of public relations.  We have become a favorite butt of many comedians; and while most of it is good-natured, much of the mocking seems excessive.  Attorneys as a group are generally good citizens, making a positive contribution, in spite of all the bad jokes.

What has happened in Luzerne County is nothing to laugh about, however; the scandal involving two judges, Mark A. Ciavarella, Jr. and Michael T. Conahan, has brought shame, disgrace, and outrage upon the judicial/legal system in that County and legal systems everywhere.  The two judges who received $2,600,000 from the private company that owns the juvenile detention centers have caused untold hundreds of young people to be incarcerated improperly.  They have not only been robbed of their youthful years, by being improperly exposed to the penitentiary system; but on their return home on release, they are tainted with the label of “bad boys”.

The whole affair represents the worst kind of justice-gone-awry.  We are embarrassed, disgusted and angry.  Each judge pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud and received a seven-year jail sentence and heavy fines.  The punishment they have received pales compared to the damage they have done to their community, especially to the kids who have been victimized.  There are several criminal investigations still in motion, and a number of civil actions are pending.  It appears that there are others involved in that fetid swamp of a system whose solemn mission, first and foremost, is to protect and defend its citizens’ constitutional rights.

It has cast a pall that can be expected to linger for decades, especially as we consider the cruel fate of the young people who were before these thuggish judges on trivial charges, denied counsel, and harshly sentenced, all to keep the private detention centers fully occupied.  One youth, Matthew Klubeck, found himself in the middle of his parents’ custody dispute; his mother’s new boyfriend reported him to the police in the middle of an argument, and the boy who was not permitted counsel was detained for 60 days in one of the centers for no reason of substance.  Mr. Klubeck observed that it is likely that the judges will receive better treatment in the federal prison they are assigned to than he did.  No doubt. 
 Ken Butera


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