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Federal Court Rules “Kids for Cash” Judge Liable for Damages
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The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania granted a partial motion by the plaintiffs for partial summary judgment against former Luzerne County Juvenile Court Judge Mark Ciavarella. Currently Ciavarella is serving a 28-year prison sentence for accepting kickbacks and failing to report “finder’s fees” connected with the development of private juvenile detention facilities.

Ciaverella continues to reject the allegations even after conviction and he maintains that there was no link between the cash he received and his decisions to send children to the private juvenile detention facilities in Pittston Township and Butler County. Criminal proceedings against Ciavarella have already proved that he used to shuttle youths to the centers while hiding away the cash he received in connection with the development of the juvenile detention centers.

  
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U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo granted summary judgment to the thousands of class-action plaintiffs on Thursday, but said a later date would be fixed for determining damages. In his partial summary judgment, Caputo ruled that Ciavarella did deprive the plaintiffs of their constitutional rights, observing that the point has already been established in the criminal proceedings against Ciavarella and the Supreme Court.

The court ruled that even though Ciavarella is immune for judicial actions, his non-judicial acts were not protected by judicial immunity, nor was the conspiracy surrounding the creation of two for-profit juvenile detention centers protected by law.

Caputo also noted that Ciavarella had failed to file a response to the plaintiffs’ motion seeking summary judgment, and it legally meant that none of the material facts alleged by the plaintiffs are in dispute. Caputo’s 23-page summary judgment detailed how Ciavarella had hatched the conspiracy in 1999 and approached fellow Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Conahan to build a team with the financial ability to build a new juvenile detention facility. Attorney Robert Powell, who was present at the meeting, later contacted developer Robert Mericle. And then Ciavarella became the “zero tolerance” judge ensuring that the detention centers received a continuous and steady stream of detainees.

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