Corrupt Judges Jail Kids for $$ Kickbacks $$

Gavel of Justice

Date of Charges, Length of Case: 2002-2008. Sentencing, Feb 2009. Case is infamously named “Kids for Cash”

Abuser/Perpetrator Name: Juvenile Court Judge Mark Ciavarella (on bench for 12 years) and Judge Michael Conahan aka “The Boss”. The two men are close friends and neighbors.

Abuser/Perpetrator Name: Co-conspirators operated two juvenile detention facilities. Robert Mericle, the developer of PA Child Care LLC gave payments when juveniles were sentenced to his facility. The center’s builder and owner were a part of thie scheme. Also involved was Robert Mericle.

Position: Served as Juvenile Court Judges in Luzerne County

Location: Wilkes-Barre, PA (Luzerne County)

VictimsThousands of Juvenile offenders who appeared in court before the disgraced former judges Judge Mark Ciavarella and Judge Michael Conahan

CrimeBetween 2002-2008, Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan took $2.6 million dollars in kickbacks to send juveniles to two privately-run detention facilities, PA Child Care LLC and Western PA Child Care LLC. Many of the juveniles sentenced to the facilities were held on minor offenses, and were 1st time offenders. Others were jailed against the advice of their parole officers. 

It was common for the juveniles to appear in court without a lawyer; the Judges had to know that a 1967 ruling by the Supreme Court guaranteed children a constitutional right to legal counsel. The juveniles and their families, were not informed of their rights

Judge Ciavarella was known for rapid fire trials, within minutes offenders as young as 10 years old were publicly berated then sentenced to spend years behind bars.

In 2002, Judge Conahan shut down the county run juvenile detention facilities to award contracts exclusively to PA Child Care LLC and Western PA Child Care LLC, earning them tens of millions of dollars in illegal profits. 

Response: Both judges charged on Jan. 26, 2009 and removed from the bench by the PA Supreme Court (wonder if they still were eligible for a cushy pension?!?!).

Judge Ciavarella was found guilty on 12 of 39 charges including racketeering, money laundering and conspiracy. He was sentenced to 28 years in jail; he is planning an appeal.

Judge Conahan received 17.5 years in prison for racketeering conspiracy, he has since apologized for his criminal acts and will not appeal his sentence. Judge Conahan has underwent counseling and says that his domineering, and physically abusive father, were contributing factors to his own aggressive presence in the court, and his abusive sentencing of juvenile offenders.

PA Child Care LLC and Western PA Child Care LLC are still in operation.

“I’ve never encountered, and I don’t think that we will in our lifetimes, a case where literally thousands of kids’ lives were just tossed aside in order for a couple of judges to make some money,” said Marsha Levick, an attorney with the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center. (AP)

In October, 2009, the PA Supreme Court dismissed 4,000 juvenile cases from Judge Ciavarella’s court, between the Jan. 2003-May 2008, when corruption was at its peak.
Judge Conahan reflects on his crimes, and the lives he destroyed, ““The system was not corrupt, I was corrupt. I did not perform my duties as I should. I did not have integrity.” (Citizen’s Voice)

More Info:

“Boss Conagan Sentenced to 17 1/2 years” by MICHAEL R. SISAK AND PATRICK SWEET (STAFF WRITERS). Citizen’s Voice, 9/23/2011:

“Despite Red Flags About Judges, a Kickback Scheme Flourished.” by Ian Urbina, March 27, 2009. New York Times:

“Pa. judges accused of jailing kids for cash” by Associated Press, 2/11/2009.

“Pennsylvania Judge Convicted in Alleged ‘Kids for Cash’ Scheme” by LINDSEY DAVIS, FRANK MASTROPOLO and , 2/21/2011. ABC News: