Thursday, October 29, 2009

Supreme Court Vacates Juvenile Convictions Back To 2003

Times Leader Photo

According to a Times Leader article out of Harrisburg Pennsylvania's Highest Court has vacated all of the juvenile cases heard before disgraced ex-Judge Mark Ciavarella since 2003. Its order also disallows retrial of all the cases but a handful.

In issuing the ruling, the high court said it agreed with Grim's assessment that Ciavarella had shown a "complete disregard for the constitutional rights of juveniles who appeared before him."

"We conclude that the record supports Judge Grim's determination that Ciavarella knew he was violating both the law and the procedural rules promulgated by this court applicable when adjudicating the merits of juvenile cases without the knowing, intelligent and voluntary waiver of counsel by the juveniles," the court wrote.

Grim had also recommended that Luzerne County District Attorney's office be barred from retrying all but a handful of cases based on the double jeopardy statute, a constitutional prohibition against trying a person twice for the same crime. Grim based that recommendation on his finding that Ciavarella engaged in intentional conduct meant to deprive juveniles of their rights. That triggered the double jeopardy statute, he said.

The Supreme Court agreed with Grim that the vast majority of cases cannot be retried, but declined to adopt Grim's reasoning regarding the double jeopardy statute. The court instead said it was granting that relief solely "in the interest of justice."

SOP believes this order is far reaching and Judges in Pennsylvania should take note. In reading the court's order it is an indictment of actions by a judge that would introduce an element of prejudice by a judge.

The transcripts reveal a disturbing lack of fundamental process, inimical to any system of justice, and made even more grievous since these matters involved juveniles.

During the hearing conducted by President Judge Platt in Joseph v. The Scranton Times, 19 MM 2009, Ciavarella admitted under oath that he had received payments from Robert Powell, a co-owner of the PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care facilities, and from Robert K. Mericle, the developer who constructed the juvenile facilities, during the period of time that Ciavarella was presiding over juvenile matters in Luzerne County. It is a matter of record that Ciavarella routinely committed juveniles to one or another of these facilities. It is also a matter of record that Ciavarella failed to disclose his ties to Powell, much less the financial benefits he received in connection with the facilities to which he routinely committed Luzerne County juveniles. Ciavarella’s admission that he received these payments, and that he failed to disclose his financial interests arising from the development of the juvenile facilities, thoroughly undermines the integrity of all juvenile proceedings before Ciavarella. Whether or not a juvenile was represented by counsel, and whether or not a juvenile was committed to one of the facilities which secretly funneled money to Ciavarella and Conahan, this Court cannot have any confidence that Ciavarella decided any Luzerne County juvenile case fairly and impartially while he labored under the
specter of his self-interested dealings with the facilities

At a federal hearing yesterday Mark Ciavarella had "No comment." FINALLY!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i use to live in Hazleton, and was on a donors list for candidates, i am sure at one time that one of the judges in this story, his sister's name was on a letter head as campaign chairperson for the mayor, i would hope she was acting on her own and not that of her brothers orders.
i am glad i am out of that town, but to be honest it is the samw everywhere, some get caught some dont.