Monday, April 13, 2009

Tensions Are Rising In And Around The Luzerne County Courthouse

The Legal Intelligencer's Peter Hall wrote an article that can be found here concerning the rising tensions inside the Luzerne County Courthouse over the expanded investigation into uninsured and under insured motorist cases(UM/UIM).

The FBI subpoenaed about 80 case files April 2 from the Luzerne County Courthouse as part of the agency's investigation into allegations regarding a possible scheme to inflate uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist arbitration awards by having plaintiff-friendly neutral arbitrators assigned to their cases.

Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. handled 12 of the neutral arbitrator appointments -- more than any of the other nine judges on the list except Conahan and Toole.

Of the remaining 27 cases, nine were handled by former judge Ann H. Lokuta, who was removed from the bench by the Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline last year for reasons unrelated to any criminal investigation; seven were handled by Judge Hugh F. Mundy; six by Judge Joseph M. Augello; two by Judge David Lupas; and one each by Judge Thomas F. Burke and President Judge Chester B. Muroski. One case on the list did not include the name of a judge assigned to handle it.

The Law Weekly first reported rumors that federal authorities were investigating alleged case fixing in UM/UIM arbitration cases in February. In the wake of that story, Muroski launched a review of the court's procedures to appoint neutral arbitrators.

Sources later confirmed the FBI's investigation was ongoing.

Well, you know you can click on the link to read the entire article. However let me highlight the following:

According to court records examined by the Law Weekly involving a selected group of 10 major auto insurance companies, plaintiffs lawyers filed petitions to appoint neutral arbitrators on 43 occasions between 1995 and 2008.

In 29 of those cases, the same six law firms represented the plaintiffs. In 13 of the 43 cases, attorneys from the same six firms, all of which market themselves as plaintiffs firms, were also appointed as neutral arbitrators. Twice, there were no records for plaintiffs attorneys. The names of the appointed arbitrators were not recorded in seven cases.

In 22 of the 43 cases, the judge was either Conahan or Ciavarella. There was no record of a judge in two of those cases.

The outcome of arbitration in which the lawyers named participated is not a public record. There is no evidence to suggest that the result of arbitration in the cases examined was improper. Nor is there anything to suggest plaintiffs law firms did anything improper to be appointed neutral arbitrators. Ciavarella and Conahan have not been charged with anything related to allegations of fixing UM/UIM cases.


Anonymous said...

Hugh F. Mundy dirty

Anonymous said...

Ann H. Lokuta do you think she called the feds on herself