In the wake of the “Cash for Kids” scandal involving corrupt Luzerne County judges who violated the rights of juveniles, all convictions in cases heard by Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan between 2003 and 2003 have been vacated. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered that these convictions be vacated and barred retrial in all but a small number of cases. About 6,500 cases are affected.
Ciavarella and Conahan were paid more than $2.8 million in exchange for sentencing juveniles to two new for-profit juvenile detention facilities. The builder of these facilities paid the judges in order to ensure that the new facilities would be utilized. The judges also failed to inform the juveniles of the ramifications of waiving their right to counsel and did not properly explain plea agreements to them.
In August of 2011, Ciavarella was convicted on 12 counts of racketeering and other charges and received 28 years in federal prison. Conahan was convicted in September of 2011 on one count of racketeering conspiracy and received 17 and a half years in federal prison. Robert Mericle, the builder of the facilities, has not been sentenced yet for failing to disclose a felony. He will likely serve a year in prison or possibly even just a year of probation.
The only cases that are eligible for retrial are some of the ones in which the juvenile had counsel present at their initial hearing. This only affects less than 100 juveniles. If you were sentenced by Mark Ciavarella or Michael Conahan between 2003 and 2008, your case is eligible to be expunged; all you need to do is apply. You can contact an experienced attorney at Fairlie & Lippy to do so.