Wednesday, January 14, 2009

And Justice For All= M.C. and His Hammer

The Supreme Court decided to take up an appeal by a death prisoner on the issue involving the right to a lawyer. As reported yesterday Jessey Jay Montejo will have his case heard before the Supreme Court on the right to a lawyer during an interrogation after asking for one. What does this case have to do with Pennsylvania?

In two separate instances the Juvenile Law Center petitioned the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court take immediate jurisdiction over more than 500 criminal cases involving juveniles before President Judge Mark Ciavarella. A Pennsylvania Child Welfare Agency had previously joined in the Petition as well as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania' Attorney General.

The JLC wanted emergency relief granted to these cases alleging that Judge Ciavarella forced these juveniles through the system without proper representation.

Luzerne County District Attorney Jackie Musto Carroll urged the state Supreme Court to reject the petition from the JLC demanding reforms in the county’s juvenile court system. "Musto Carroll and Barletta said the Juvenile Law Center did not adequately establish the identities of the juveniles it claimed were wronged, other than the two whose cases were the impetus for the petition.."

It is interesting that the Attorney General for Pennsylvania and the department charged with licensing juvenile facilities support the JLC while the Luzerne DA opposes the effort.

Ciavarella has also been accused of failing to conduct a colloquy – a legal term that refers to in-depth questioning judges are required to perform to ensure defendants understand what rights they are giving up when they opt to waive their right to an attorney. As support for her position Musto Carroll noted that on the summons juveniles receive they are notified of the right to an attorney. Musto Carroll should revisit this position in light of the seriousness of the allegations.

This issue brought back memories of an all time favorite movie- "And Justice For All" starring Al Pacino. It's a brilliant performance. Yes, it appears Judge Ciavarella is "out of order."

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