Disgraced judge Claims immunity for his actions against juveniles, who allege they were unjustly incarcerated; Juvenile Law Center’s response coming

April 1
Ciavarella moves to dismiss lawsuit

By Terrie Morgan-Besecker tmorgan@timesleader.com
Law & Order Reporter

SCRANTON – Claiming he has judicial immunity, former Luzerne County judge Mark Ciavarella on Tuesday filed a motion seeking to dismiss one of the federal lawsuits filed against him by juveniles who allege they were unjustly incarcerated.

The motion, which Ciavarella authored and filed himself, argues he is immune from civil suits related to actions he took on the bench, even if those actions were done “maliciously or corruptly.”

The disgraced judge filed the motion in connection with a class-action lawsuit filed by the Juvenile Law Center of Philadelphia, which represents dozens of juveniles who allege Ciavarella wrongly detained them in order to financially benefit himself and others.

Ciavarella and former judge Michael Conahan pleaded guilty in February to charges of tax evasion and depriving the public of their honest services for accepting more than $2.6 million in kickbacks in exchange for rulings that benefited the Pa Child Care and Western Pa Child Care centers that were once co-owned by Butler Township attorney Robert Powell.

Ciavarella and Conahan have agreed to serve 87 months in prison, but remain free pending their official sentencing, which is not expected to be scheduled for at least another month. Although no longer on the bench, both have retained their license to practice law as their plea agreements call for them to resign from the bar within 10 days after they are sentenced.

Robert Schwartz, executive director of the Juvenile Law Center, said attorneys there had anticipated Ciavarella would file a motion to dismiss. He said the center will have a response to the motion but declined to state the legal basis upon which that motion will be based.

The center’s suit is one of three pending against Ciavarella, Conahan, Powell and several other persons who are alleged to have engaged in a scheme to send children to the PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care centers in order to pad their pockets.

Attorneys who filed the other suits, Michael Cefalo of Pittston and Barry Dyller of Wilkes-Barre, said Ciavarella had not filed a motion to dismiss in their cases as of late Tuesday afternoon.

Cefalo said he anticipated the judges might seek to claim judicial immunity. He said the judges do have immunity for acts they take on the bench, but that immunity may not extend to administrative actions they take outside of their office.

All three suits allege the judges took various administrative actions, including closing the county’s former juvenile detention, as part of the scheme.

“The acts he committed when he wears the robe, he has immunity. When he’s not wearing the robe, and it’s an administrative act, that may not be covered,” Cefalo said.

50 Reader Comments

Join the discussion on our Facebook page

COMMENT HERE

Comment*:


Name*:


E-mail*:

* These fields are required.



Lance said...

Auto insurance is higher in northeast Pa due to high lawsuit settlements from Ciavarella and Powell. Everyone one of us is paying for their greed.

April 1, 2009 at 7:20 AM

Pringle Hill said...

This disgraced judge is now trying to use the very system he corrupted to protect himself. It would be a disgrace to dismiss the federal suit against him!

April 1, 2009 at 7:26 AM

Larry said...

How about someone changes that law.

April 1, 2009 at 8:06 AM

Fletch said...

Why is he and the other criminal still not in jail yet? Why is there such a delay in seeing these scum behind bars????

April 1, 2009 at 8:09 AM

Barry said...

Mark is going to pay big time when he hits the cell blocks! What a total scumbag.

April 1, 2009 at 8:27 AM

joe vandelay said...

Let's face it, he is not at fault here. Let's put the blame were it belongs, society. Noone is responsible for their actions anymore.

April 1, 2009 at 8:28 AM

lee said...

IMMUNITY????? Did the kids recieve immunity? It is bad enough that the scums are still collecting their pay checks until sentenced. They also are trying to get retirement!!!! Now they was IMMUNITY???? These guys really do think they are better than the rest of us! They should be sitting in a jail cell right now!!!! Immunity.....give me a break!

April 1, 2009 at 8:52 AM

Hoofie of Falls said...

He wants this, he wants that. Right. Do you know what I want? I want his pompous, arrogant face in a mug shot. I'll print it out in color and hang it in my bathroom.

April 1, 2009 at 9:10 AM

Fred Williams said...

I can understand judicial immunity on the bench. I can't fathom immunity for unlawful administrative acts while wearing a business suit. It's like saying you can't touch me for the unlawful and unspeakable things that I did, I have immunity. Let's hope that Dyller and Cefalo will pevail against Mark (the crooked judge) Ciavarella.

April 1, 2009 at 9:17 AM

Pundit said...

I heard of a Judge who wanted to save his career and then tried to wash his hands of his decision. What a fitting time of year! There was even a robe involved.

April 1, 2009 at 9:47 AM

leroy said...

Rule #1 lose all sense of shame I hope Judge Kosick doesn't accept your plea and to stand for all you've done CRIMINAL

April 1, 2009 at 10:25 AM

walt said...

LOOPHOLES,LOOPHOLES,LOOPHOLES,i can't believe this guy is still trying to get away with all his misdeeds,what a scumbag,he's worthless as a human being can be,87 months is way to short for what he did and continues to try to do,immunity,he should pay through the nose like those kids.87 years is more like it,and not at a golf course,can't wait till sentenceing,keep up the great reporting on these 2 jerks!

April 1, 2009 at 10:32 AM

Jake said...

I wish they would quit torturing the man.

April 1, 2009 at 10:34 AM

Sue said...

O give me a break now judges are whyinning.. They know what they are up against and dont want to fork over the money if they loose. and be like us middle class people ,u play u loose .. Get with it Judges how does it feel now..

April 1, 2009 at 10:57 AM

virginia said...

these men should not be free, they should be in jail right now. It seems like they are getting special treatment.

April 1, 2009 at 12:07 PM

Dave Peters said...

A crook is a crook!! I believe they should be held responsible for their actions and made to pay for all the lives they spoiled, by both jail time and financial to the ones they wronged. Where do they get off thinking they "ARE ABOVE THE LAW"

April 1, 2009 at 12:28 PM

bernie G said...

Laws made by lawyers to protect lawyers. This has to be the only job where your not held responsible for your actions. A little slap on the wrist and give me my pension. These lawyers are the scum of the earth. They are no good and the United States knows it. Thank you national media.

April 1, 2009 at 12:56 PM

Simple Simon said...

You walked into the courtroom like you were walking on board a yacht. Your glasses strategically dipped below one eye, your tie it was appricot. You had one eye on their wallets and as you slammed the gavel down. And all the Cronies thought they'd be your close friend, they'd be your close friend...

April 1, 2009 at 12:56 PM

Hmm said...

"..even if those actions were done maliciously or corruptly"????? There is something VERY WRONG with the law that allows these actions by judges to be acceptable. Change the dang law and make the judicial system work for everybody. If a judge (and his actions) is not honorable , how could he/she be respected and entrusted to judge others? What is the remedy for a "crooked" judge? A tsk,tsk,tsk? These 2 judges are beyond disgust!

April 1, 2009 at 1:43 PM

Cityrefugee said...

He has some nerve. I can tell already he's gonna be a real pansy behind bars.

April 1, 2009 at 1:53 PM

I'm John Senchak, and I approve of this message/ John@antihotmail.com said...

This guy wants a pension on top of breaking the law, sort of like having his cake and eating it to. What kind of fantasy is he living in? From the 20/20 interview, it seems that good old Ciavarella is in the state of denial on what he did to this county when it comes to the down right corruption that was perpetrated.

April 1, 2009 at 2:04 PM

Joe Valley said...

Scooch is from East End and a good Catholic. I say lets let the Bishop decide his fate.

April 1, 2009 at 2:32 PM

DEE said...

HANG HIM!!TO THE FULLEST,SHOW NO MERCY HE DIDN,T

April 1, 2009 at 4:19 PM

jane said...

Now I don't wonder why the USA has the highest rate of incarcaration in the world.Obviously,many folks benefit from private companies (or individuals) who own prisions.They give their friends bribes to sent more business their way.Absolutly disgusting!They both ought to be horsewhiped in a large sports arena and sentenced to some miserable wilderness camp after they serve their jail terms.

April 1, 2009 at 4:23 PM

Robert said...

The motion, which Ciavarella authored and filed himself, argues he is immune from civil suits related to actions he took on the bench, even if those actions were done “maliciously or corruptly.” All he is doing is admitting his acts were malicious and corrupt, just by the wording alone. This guy has such an ego, it amazes me. You would think he would keep his mouth shut, you haven't heard a word from Callahan, but this guy keeps going and going. He is obviously a very sick individual.

April 1, 2009 at 5:34 PM

Tbone said...

EXACTLY - “The acts he committed when he wears the robe, he has immunity. When he’s not wearing the robe, and it’s an administrative act, that may not be covered,” Cefalo said. I would hope lawyers who filed anticipated this defense. YOu dont need to be a lawyer to know they are immune.

April 1, 2009 at 6:26 PM

anthony musto said...

Calling all lawyers...go get every red cent from these crooks...they have a lot of dough....it is there for the taking through lawsuits...go get that money boys...sic 'em!!!!! hahahahahahahahahahaha

April 1, 2009 at 7:11 PM

George said...

His arrogance is almost beyond words. Let's face it -- this claim of his is very consistent with a person who would abuse his power and incarcerate others unjustly for personal profit.

April 1, 2009 at 8:59 PM

me said...

What a jerk...this guy really doesnt get it. countless lives virtually destroyed, all for what ? a condo in florida so he can hob nob with the rich and famous ? and now wants immunity ? i hope they put this guy in general population.

April 1, 2009 at 10:07 PM

Pundit said...

Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah here I am at Camp Granada. Camp is very entertaining and my roomate got lots of cards and letters. All the Councilers love to see me they say Manson isn't quite as entertaining. Now I don't want to scare ya but I think my roomate got malaria. You remember Ollie Hardy there about to organize a searching party. Wait a minute it stopped raining Guys are golfing Guys are sailing gee that's better Muddah Faddah kindly disregard this letter.

April 1, 2009 at 10:21 PM

knightgale said...

NO one should have immunity, they knew what they did, was illegal,this is pathetic, they do not deserve their pensions either, why are they NOT in jail, like anyone else who BREAK THE LAW????

April 2, 2009 at 6:52 AM

Mississippi Jason said...

What is wrong with you people in PA? Just get a rope and go find a nice strong tree!

April 2, 2009 at 10:56 AM

Anonymous said...

Hellooo, Pennsylvania! Ni Hao, G'Day Mates, and Guten Tag -- from California to China, Australia to Germany, the world is watching how you deal with this corrupt child-dealing "Judge Dread." 50-years behind bars without parole seems barely adequate for the children's lives he's ruined. Not to prosecute this scum AND his cohorts to the full extent of the LAW would expose an astonishing judicial failure to the entire world. Help is available if you need it. Good luck, and don't disappoint.

April 2, 2009 at 11:56 AM

ScottP said...

Lance is absolutely 100% correct. I have worked in management in the two largest insurors in N/E Pa and for years we have wondered in disbelief the judgements in N/E Pa. Never were we able to crack the code as to why the settlements were so far out of whack to the norm until a couple months ago. The average citizen of this area can not even imagine the damage these men have done. The $$$ wasted of hard working honest citizens. If I were to guess, thousands of dollars in insurance premiums per/family directly attributeable to the inflated claims and unreasonable awards. It is unfathomable.

April 2, 2009 at 11:57 AM

Dave said...

This guy should be jailed.

April 2, 2009 at 12:15 PM

bottlcaps said...

Nice Try, Ciavarella but most likely the motion will be denied. The immunity DOES NOT allow for enrichment due to his acts, nor does it allow immunity from acts resulting from unconstitutional behavior, all of which Ciavarella has plead to in a state court. If I were the judge I would plead guilty to fed counts and do the time at a federal minimum security facility somewhere! "Club Fed" as it were. Going to state prison is far worse!

April 2, 2009 at 2:00 PM

Anti-Disney said...

The real joke would be to hold Ciavarella accountable. This is AmeriKKKa people. Judges ARE above the law!

April 2, 2009 at 2:30 PM

Chris said...

Guys - he is going to jail, this is a tactic to attempt to dismiss the federal suit against him, not the criminal charges. No personally I feel that plea he was offered is far to light, but that isn't what this motion is about.

April 2, 2009 at 3:52 PM

Bob said...

So he can go on a crime spree murdering and raping everyone in sight, as long as it all goes down inside his courtroom? Makes perfect sense to me.

April 2, 2009 at 5:29 PM

darrin said...

its simple put him in a windowless room no cameras with all the kids he hurt..... cant prove who done it

April 2, 2009 at 9:35 PM

Harvey Wallbanger said...

Execute him. Publicly.

April 3, 2009 at 1:15 AM

Joe from Ct. said...

What a shame to read (in New York Times) about those two judges from my home town. I hope the Law will favor those kids, and imprison the judges to fullest extent.

April 3, 2009 at 11:13 AM

Urtle the Turtle said...

HE IS MY HERO... THOSE KIDS ARE A MENCE TO OUR COUNTRY.. PUT THEM IN THE MILITARY SEE HOW THEY LIKE JUSTICE.. GOD SPEED CIAVARELLA !! YOU DID YOUR DUTY NOW LET THE WORLD REJOICE IN YOUR AMAZING SKILLS! IF ONLY MORE JUDGES WILL TAKE UP YOUR PLACE AND FOLLOW IN THE NEVER ENDING WORK THAT IS STRAITING OUT THIS AREA FROM ITS DELENQUENCY... YOU ARE AMERICA! I WILL MISS YOU... GOD SPEED... I HOPE THEY LET YOU OUT in 2 years so you can FINSH WHAT YOU STARTEd.. YOU SHOULD BE SPEAKING AT SCHOOL AND CHURCHES ALIKE!! YOU ARE MY HERO....

April 3, 2009 at 2:48 PM

Knowsis said...

I want to email this article to all those kids he sent away, along with his home address....

April 3, 2009 at 3:13 PM

Tyler said...

What makes This guy think eh's above the law? What makes a robe give you immunity? Nixon was not above the law, no Congress member is above the law, no US citizen is above the law, so why should a judge be granted immunity for committing crimes? This is sickening

April 3, 2009 at 7:13 PM

Ed said...

Aren't these judges voted in? If so, it's obvious that the voters owe those abused children big time.

April 4, 2009 at 10:23 AM

Molly said...

What I don't understand is that if this horrible act was done by anyone else like an average joe we would be hung about on the spot. All of our assets would be frozen immediately. Our pensions would be haulted. Our personal property would be sold to repay all fines, etc. I personally think that their assets should all be seized and sold to pay any and all awards from the civil lawsuit(s). I do not believe they should be allowed to cut a deal. I do believe they should recieve the harshest punishment possible just as they did to many children with out any second thoughts. They have disgraced this county, our children, and their profession. Not to mention how many children have lost all their innocence due to their greed.

April 4, 2009 at 11:56 PM

wayne said...

Wish we were back in the good old days when we could tar and feather scumbags like those judges.

April 5, 2009 at 7:52 AM

mamabear said...

Judges are immune from 1983 damages actions, but they are subject to criminal prosecutions as are other citizens. O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U. S. 488, 414 U. S. 503 (1974). Get the tree on the public square ready. Crimes against children by officials, and especially robes sitting in Star Chambers, will not be tolerated in this country! They had millions of dollars of assets (condos, boats) in Florida. They are NOT broke. The government is able to seize (I think they already did) the assets under RICO.

April 5, 2009 at 11:56 PM

Dan said...

This just proves how broken our justice system is that slime like this can exploit loopholes to not only collect pensions,but also escape paying back their victims.

April 7, 2009 at 12:18 AM


Most Viewed Luzerne County Judges Stories in Past 7 Days

1. FBI has file of $3.1M award linked to judge
2. Toole’s recusal in case sought
3. High court orders hearing on $3.5M verdict
4. FBI removes judge’s case files
5. VIDEO: Luzerne County judges featured on ABC's 20/20
6. FBI takes 87 case files involving arbitration awards from county court
7. Officials mull suing two judges
8. Ciavarella moves to dismiss lawsuit

Most E-Mailed Luzerne County Judges Stories in Past 7 Days

1. Toole’s recusal in case sought
2. Feds: Judges used system to enrich selves
3. FBI has file of $3.1M award linked to judge
4. VIDEO: Luzerne County judges featured on ABC's 20/20
5. Brief alleging Ciavarella-Powell link filed
6. Ciavarella resigns as president judge
7. Background on federal probe
8. High court orders hearing on $3.5M verdict


The Times LeaderThe Weekender - NEPA's #1 Arts and Entertainment WeeklyThe Abington Journal - Serving the Clarks Summit area of Lackawanna CountyThe Dallas Post - Serving the Back Mountain of Luzerne CountyThe Pittston Dispatch - Serving the upper Wyoming ValleyEl Mensajero - El único semanario Hispano de noticias en el Noreste de Pennsylvania.
The Times Leader Scranton Edition - Serving all of Lackawanna CountyThe Hazleton Times - Serving all of Southern Luzerne CountyThe Tunkhannock Times - Serving all of Wyoming CountyFive Mountain Times - Serving Western Luzerne County
The Wilkes-Barre Publishing Company