Court Scraps Pa. Juvenile Convictions

Corrupt judge took kickbacks from detention centers
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 26, 2009 6:30 PM CDT
Mark Ciavarella, in foreground, leaves the federal courthouse in Scranton, Pa., on Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009.   (AP Photo/David Kidwell)
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(Newser) – Pennsylvania's highest court today overturned hundreds of juvenile convictions issued by a corrupt judge who took millions of dollars in kickbacks from youth detention centers. The state Supreme Court ruled that former judge Mark Ciavarella violated the constitutional rights of youth offenders who appeared in his courtroom without lawyers between 2003 and 2008.

In one of the most egregious cases of judicial corruption ever, federal prosecutors charged Ciavarella and another Luzerne County judge, Michael Conahan, with taking $2.6 million in payoffs to put juvenile offenders in privately owned lockups. The judges pleaded guilty to fraud last month and face sentences of more than seven years in prison.