Six years into a 28-year prison sentence, the disgraced judge who accepted kickbacks for funneling juvenile defendants to for-profit detention centers has left federal Bureau of Prisons custody and is now being held at the Dauphin County Prison ahead of an evidentiary hearing set for Sept. 14 related to a motion to vacate his sentence.
Read more in the Citizens Voice.
Old-time justices of the peace often practiced justice by a wink and a nod. Outcomes often were rooted in local custom, backgrounds of the parties, relationships and politics among plaintiffs and defendants, police and the accused and a variety of factors only loosely connected with the law.
Pennsylvania has made major strides in professionalizing the “minor judiciary” over the last 25 years, members of which are now known as magisterial district judges. More of them have formal legal training. Most counties have central courts to remove preliminary criminal matters from what were, in effect, the closed doors of the neighborhood office. Pay has been increased to help produce more qualified candidates. There is a statewide disciplinary system.
Read more in Citizens Voice.
Another person in the Centre County Courthouse is being scolded by Harrisburg.
On Tuesday, Judge Jonathan Grine received a “letter of counsel” from the Judiciary Conduct Board.
“Following an investigation into a complaint initiated after a referral from the Disciplinary Board...regarding conduct that took place in 2014 between Judge Jonathan D. Grine and Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller, the board voted to resolve the complaint by issuing a letter of counsel to the judge,” the JCB said in a press release.
Read more in Centre Daily.
Bradford C. Timbers broke just about every ethics rule written for judges. He was charged by disciplinary authorities for coming to work drunk, attempting to fix a traffic case, screaming profanities in court and patting his secretary on her buttocks.
The troubled Allentown district justice was removed from the bench in 1997, just three years after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court created the Judicial Conduct Board to police the state's judges. District justices have since been renamed magisterial district judges, but while the title has changed, one thing has remained constant: the state's minor judiciary is plagued by misconduct.
Read the full story in the Legal Intelligencer.
A federal judge has ruled that the lead plaintiffs in a proposed class action stemming from the "kids-for-cash" scandal will be allowed to show a mediator confidential settlement agreements previously reached with other defendants as a means of aiding in determining the value of defendant Robert Powell's exposure in the case. It will then be up to the mediator to decide whether to disclose those agreements to Powell and his counsel.
Read more in the Legal Intelligencer.
A Pennsylvania magistrate judge has denied watching pornographic videos in his chambers in a response to ethics charges brought last month by the state’s Judicial Conduct Board.
In a filing Wednesday with the state’s Court of Judicial Discipline, Monroe County Magisterial District Judge Michael R. Muth said that he never openly viewed explicit videos, but he did acknowledge occasionally looking at photographs of naked women on a personal computer in chambers that was not hooked up to the internet.
Read the full story from Law 360.
Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Jack Panella has stepped down as chief judge of the state's Court of Judicial Discipline ahead of his four-year term on that court ending in September.
Panella, a Palmer Township resident, gave up the post, which he held for more than a year, because his tenure was nearly over and the court had a scheduled meeting at which the change could be made, he said Thursday morning.
Read more from Lehigh Valley Live.
Former Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judge Mark Ciavarella, currently serving a 28-year sentence for his role in the "kids-for-cash" scandal, is seeking to invoke in his bid for freedom the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that made it harder for public officials to be prosecuted for bribery.
The decision in McDonnell v. United States, in which the high court overturned former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell's bribery conviction, was handed down while Ciavarella was in his fifth year of federal incarceration. The changes that McDonnell brought to prosecuting bribery cases could affect his case, the ex-Luzerne County judge claimed in court papers.
McDonnell narrowed the definition of an "official act" done for payment or a favor. Ciavarella was convicted of accepting $2.8 million in kickbacks, along with fellow Judge Michael Conahan, from the builder and former co-owner of a private juvenile detention facility. Ciavarella was sent to prison in 2011.
Read more in the Legal Intelligencer.
Six years after his conviction in the "Kids for Cash" case, one of Pennsylvania's worst corruption scandals, a disgraced judge is getting another chance to try to escape what could be a life prison sentence.
Former Luzerne County President Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. will get that opportunity in September when he appears before U.S. Middle District Chief Judge Christopher C. Conner in Harrisburg.
Read more in The Patriot-News.
Fissures in the foundation can signal critical structural issues. That fact is as true for institutions as it is for real property. If the fundamentals of choosing and disciplining the individuals who serve as pillars of an institution are shaky, the institution will be vulnerable to seismic events.
Looking at Pennsylvania's judiciary, there is currently much to commend. But how can citizens have full faith in the courts if they continue to produce headlines of judicial misconduct and untoward behavior? Every new allegation suggests that something is not as structurally sound as it needs to be.
Read more from The Legal Intelligencer.
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Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts is a statewide nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to ensuring that all Pennsylvanians can come to our courts with confidence that they will be heard by qualified, fair, and impartial judges
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