More than 70 juveniles and their
families filed a class-action lawsuit Thursday against two former
judges who pleaded guilty this month in a scheme that involved their
taking kickbacks to put young offenders in privately run detention
The suit contends that before resigning last year, the judges "used
kids as commodities that could be traded for cash," placing an
"indelible stain" on the juvenile justice system of Luzerne County in
The suit, filed in the Federal District Court in Scranton by the
Juvenile Law Center, seeks to have all profits that the detention
centers earned from the scheme placed in a fund that would compensate
the youths for their emotional distress.
In an earlier filing, the law center, based in Philadelphia, asked
the State Supreme Court to clear the records of all juveniles who
appeared before the judges, Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and Michael T.
The suit brought Thursday is the third filed on behalf of juvenile
offenders. The two others, one of which also seeks class-action status,
were filed by private lawyers.
Mr. Ciavarella and Mr. Conahan pleaded guilty on Feb. 12 to federal
charges of wire and income-tax fraud for having taken more than $2.6
million in kickbacks to send teenagers to the two privately operated
centers, run by PA Child Care and a sister company, Western PA Child
"Judge Ciavarella's placement of so many children in juvenile
facilities without regard for their underlying charges suggests a
Procrustean scheme that violated one of the core principles of the
juvenile justice system - the right to individualized treatment and
rehabilitation," Lourdes M. Rosado, associate director of the Juvenile
Law Center, said in a statement.
Lawyers for the two former judges declined to comment on the suit.
As for the criminal investigation of court personnel, two
additional people have already been charged, and federal officials say
they may soon charge others involved in the scheme.