… one Nation, under God,
with Liberty and JUSTICE for All.
Hall of Shame Nominee: JUDGE MICHAEL T. CONAHAN
Note: This Administrator, with his Client, filed to IMPEACH Michael T. Conahan several years before the “Kids For Cash: scandal was revealed. A “thug” is a Thug regardless of his wardrobe or “title”.
The “kids for cash” scandal unfolded in 2008 over judicial kickbacks at the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Two judges, President Judge Mark Ciavarella and Senior Judge Michael Conahan, were convicted of accepting money from Robert Mericle, builder of two private, for-profit youth centers for the detention of juveniles, in return for contracting with the facilities and imposing harsh adjudications on juveniles brought before their courts to increase the number of residents in the centers.
For example, Ciavarella adjudicated children to extended stays in youth centers for offenses as minimal as mocking a principal on Myspace, trespassing in a vacant building, or shoplifting DVDs from Walmart. Ciavarella and Conahan pled guilty on February 13, 2009, pursuant to a plea agreement, to federal charges of honest services fraud and conspiracy to defraud the United States (failing to report income to the Internal Revenue Service, known as tax evasion) in connection with receiving $2.6 million in payments from managers at PA Child Care in Pittston Township and its sister company Western PA Child Care in Butler County. The plea agreement was later voided by a federal judge, who was dissatisfied with the post-plea conduct of the defendants, and the two judges charged subsequently withdrew their guilty pleas, raising the possibility of a criminal trial.
A federal grand jury in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania returned a 48-count indictment against Ciavarella and Conahan including racketeering, fraud, money laundering, extortion, bribery, and federal tax violations on September 9, 2009. Conahan entered a revised guilty plea to one count of racketeering conspiracy in July 2010. In a verdict reached at the conclusion of a jury trial, Ciavarella was convicted February 18, 2011 on 12 of the 39 counts he faced.
Following the original plea agreement, the Supreme Court of PA ordered an investigation of the cases handled by the judges and following its outcome overturned several hundred adjudications of delinquency in Luzerne County. The Juvenile Law Center filed a class action lawsuit against the judges and numerous other parties, and the state legislature created a commission to investigate the wide-ranging juvenile justice problems in the county. The Center has maintained a list of related court documents.
- Urbina, Ian (March 27, 2009). “Despite Red Flags, Judges Ran Kickback Scheme for Years”. New York Times. Retrieved 2009-05-02.
- Frank, Thomas (April 1, 2009). “Thomas Frank Says ‘Kids for Cash’ Incentivizes the Prison Industry”. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2009-08-25.
- Pennsylvania rocked by ‘jailing kids for cash’ scandal”.
- Urbina, Ian (February 26, 2009). “70 Youths Sue Former Judges in Detention Kickback Case”. New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-25.
- Sisak, Michael (July 1, 2009). “Powell pleads guilty”. The Times-Trubine. Retrieved 2009-08-26.
- Morgan-Besecker, Terrie (August 25, 2009). “Judges withdraw guilty pleas”. Wikes-Barre Times Leader. Retrieved 2009-08-25.[dead link]
- “Indictment – USA v. Conahan and Ciavarella”(PDF). September 9, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-12.
- Morgan-Besecker, Terrie (September 10, 2009). “Ex-judges hit with 48 counts”. Times Leader. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- “U.S. Attorney’s Office News Release” (PDF). September 9, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-10.
- Morgan-Besecker, Terrie (April 25, 2011). “Hearing set for Ciavarella pension”. Wilkes-Barre Times Leader. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
- “Ex-judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. guilty in ‘cash for kids’ case”. The Philadelphia Daily News. Retrieved 2011-02-21.
- Ciavarella won’t fight for $250K pension”. Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice. April 26, 2011. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
- “Court Tosses Convictions Of Corrupt Judge”. CBSnews.com. March 26, 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-02.
- “Governor Rendell Signs Bill Creating Commission to Probe Juvenile Justice System”. Pennsylvania Office of the Governor. August 7, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-26.
- “Juvenile Law Center Files Federal Class Action Complaint on Behalf of Affected Luzerne County Children and Families”. Juvenile Law Center. February 26, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-26.
- “JLC’s growing list of related Court Documents”. Juvenile Law Center. 2010-05-16. Archived from the original on 2010-05-16. Retrieved 2012-11-16.
An investigation into improper sentencing in Luzerne County began early in 2007 as a result of requests for assistance from several youths received by the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center. Lawyers from the law center determined that several hundred cases were tried without the defendants receiving proper counsel. In April 2008, the Juvenile Law Center petitioned the Pennsylvania Supreme Court seeking relief for alleged violation of the youths’ civil rights. The application of relief was later denied, then reconsidered in January 2009 when charges of corruption against the judges surfaced.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service also investigated the two judges, although the exact dates and scope of the investigations by the two federal agencies were not made public. Part of the investigation was revealed to have occurred during disciplinary hearings over the conduct of another former Luzerne County judge, Anne H. Lokuta. Lokuta was brought before the Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania in November 2006 to answer charges of using court workers to do her personal bidding, openly displaying bias against some attorneys arguing before her, and publicly berating staff to cause mental distress.
The board ruled against Lokuta in November 2008, and she was removed from the bench. During the course of the disciplinary hearings, Lokuta accused then Judge Michael Conahan of bullying behavior and charged that he was behind a conspiracy to have her removed. Lokuta aided the federal investigation into the “kids for cash” scheme prior to the determination of the disciplinary board, and a stay order was issued in March 2009 by the state Supreme Court in light of the ongoing corruption investigations, halting Lokuta’s removal and the election that was to be held in May to replace her.