Pennsylvania tosses juvenile convictions

The Associated PressMarch 27, 2009 

— Pennsylvania's highest court on Thursday overturned hundreds of juvenile convictions issued by a judge who took millions of dollars in kickbacks from youth detention centers.

The state Supreme Court ruled that former Luzerne County President Judge Mark Ciavarella violated the constitutional rights of youth offenders who appeared in his courtroom without lawyers between 2003 and 2008.

"It's going to take some time, but the Supreme Court is committed to righting whatever wrong was perpetrated on Luzerne's juveniles and their families," Chief Justice Ronald Castille said.

In one of the most egregious cases of judicial corruption ever seen, 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.

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