On Thursday the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania overturned the sentences of thousands of juvenile offenders due to a recently discovered corruption scandal.
Judge Mark A. Ciavarella, who passed sentence on the overturned cases, was discovered to have accepted $2.6 million from the owner of two privately run youth detention centers. In return, the judge would send more teens to these facilities.
Judge Ciavarella and his accomplice, Michael T. Conahan, would routinely hold hearings that lasted only minutes. And they would fail to inform the juvenile defendants before them of the consequences of pleading guilty. Judge Conahan helped to attain contracts for the private jails, granting them state-funded payment for the number of inmates they housed.
The New York Times has been covering the details of the courrption case:
“The judge’s whim is all that mattered in that courtroom,” said Marsha Levick, the legal director of the Juvenile Law Center, a child advocacy organization in Philadelphia, which began raising concerns about the court to state authorities in 1999. “The law was basically irrelevant.”