Berkeley CSUA MOTD:Entry 52838
Berkeley CSUA MOTD
2022/05/27 [General] UID:1000 Activity:popular

2009/4/10-20 [Reference/Law/Court] UID:52838 Activity:low
4/10    Is it common for a judge in a family court situation to tell
        the attorneys or both sides how he wants to see the situation
        resolved, and inform them that if the parties don't agree to that
        resolution in open court that it will not go well for party
        not toeing his perffered line?  This seems a little strange
        to me. It also leaves no record of the outside influence for
        the future which is disturbing. --jwm
        \_ Sounds odd to me, but I don't knoe anything about a family court.
           Is this in reference to some current event, or is it personal?
           \_ It's something I encountered.  Apparently this is the second
              time it's happened. It's my GF's case, and I wasn't there
              the first time around.
        \_ Judges have a lot of authority for a reason. If you don't want
           to go with his proposed settlement, you might want to try and
           get judges changed, but you are not likely to be successful.
           What does your lawyer say?
           \_ Laywer seems unphased by it, and said that's how it is. She
              drops her counter-claim, or basically we'll lose. The judge
              is threaten to decide against the side that chooses to litigate.
              It wouldn't seem as weird if it happened in open court,
              were it would be on the record, but it wasn't it, it was
              done in a backroom, with only the lawyers present.  It just
              seemed shady to me. Seems that only courses are to aquiese, or
              litagate lose, and appeal. The secnd is not a good option as
              it's very expensive, and there's not way to prove that the
              loss the first time was the result of judical bias.  Maybe
              this is standard and customary, but it just feels like it's
              unethical if not outright illegal.
        \_ Isn't this the whole point of having a judge?
        \_ This is pretty normal in most civil cases.
           \_ That's good to know. I'm not unhappy about the result, but
              it seemed a little strange since it was backroom deal,
              and kept off the record. Just seemed like someome was
              hiding something.
              \_ From what I've seen, Judges have a good sense of what
                 a reasonable settlement is and try pretty hard to get
                 the parties to settle.  While I haven't been to a pre-
                 trial conf. yet, I'm told that in marginal cases the
                 Judge will often tell a party that he/she/it is going
                 to lose and should just settle and that parties who
                 don't take the Judge's advice often end up regretting
                 their loss even more b/c of the additional expense and
                 burden of trial.
        \_ I am a little surprised at the discretion judge have in some cases
           beyond the "pay money" "go to jail" "take a class" "specific
        \_ I am a little surprised at the discretion judges have in some cases
           beyond "pay money" "go to jail" "take a class" "specific
           compliance with the contract" standard forms of "community service"
            ... e.g. cases where the judge said "you can either go to jail or
            wear a sign saying ..." or do some other humiliating/shaming thing.
                 to lose and should just settle.
2022/05/27 [General] UID:1000 Activity:popular

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"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. On Thursday, the State Supreme Court ordered that the records be cleaned for hundreds of the 2,500 or so juveniles sentenced by Judge Ciavarella, and in the coming weeks, the two judges will be sentenced, under a plea agreement, to more than seven years in prison. While the scandal continues to ripple nationally as legal experts debate whether juvenile courts have sufficient oversight, here in Luzerne County people are grappling with more immediate questions: How did two native sons, elected twice to the bench to protect children and serve justice, decide to do the opposite? Old Friends Hatch a Plan It all started in June 2000 with a simple business proposition, according to the judges' indictment and more than 40 interviews with courtroom workers, authorities and others. The two men agreed to meet and, according to prosecutors, somewhere in that conversation a plan was hatched that courthouse workers and county officials would later describe as a "freight train without brakes." First, Judge Ciavarella put Mr Powell in touch with a developer who also happened to be an old friend, Robert K Mericle, to start work on finding a site. And by the end of that year, Judge Conahan had gotten rid of the competition by eliminating financing for the county detention center. "They were unstoppable," said Judge Chester B Muroski, who sent a letter to county commissioners raising concerns about detention costs, only to be transferred days later to another court by Judge Conahan. "I knew something was wrong, but they silenced all dissent." a state audit that described the state's lease of the center as a "bad deal," the center's owner filed a "trade secrets" lawsuit against Mr Flood, and Judge Conahan sealed the suit to limit other documents' getting out. "Everyone began to assume that the judges had some vested interest in the private center because they were pushing it so doggedly," one courthouse worker said. Virtually all former colleagues and courthouse workers would not allowed themselves to be identified because the federal investigation into the kickback scheme was ongoing and they feared for their jobs if they alienated former allies of the judges. His lawyer said that the judges had coerced him into paying the kickbacks and that he was cooperating with investigators. The few officials who had concerns at the time say their hands were tied. Probation officers say they suspected that something was amiss but were overruled every time they requested lighter sentences or for sentences to be served at home. County commissioners were the only ones authorized to sign contracts for detention centers. But by eliminating money for the county center, Judge Conahan left them little alternative but to sign on to the deal for the private facility. Prosecutors say that by sentencing juveniles to detention at twice the state average, Judge Ciavarella was holding up his end of the bargain. And by late 2003, so much money was rolling in that the two judges were struggling to hide it all. So in 2004, they bought a $785,000 condominium together in Florida to help conceal the payments, and they began disguising transactions as rent and other related fees. "We did what we could to stop it," said Commissioner Stephen A Urban, who repeatedly argued that the county should build its own center rather than lease the private one. "There were so many red flags that no one could mistake them as any other color." Disparate Upbringings One red flag was the 56-foot yacht in front of the judges' Florida condo, where they and Mr Powell started spending much of their time. The conspicuous wealth Judge Ciavarella enjoyed in Florida was a far cry from the rough East End neighborhood in Wilkes-Barre where he grew up and is still known as "the local kid who made it big." A stellar athlete and student, Judge Ciavarella was the son of a brewery worker and a phone company operator. Nicknamed Scooch, like his father, he drove a beat-up Volkswagen Beetle for years, and even after moving away, he visited his aging mother daily until she died in 2007. After law school at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Mr Ciavarella ran for a seat on the county's Court of Common Pleas in August 1994. On the bench, he became known for a stern hand in sentencing and a sharp wit in making sure everyone knew who was boss. By contrast, Judge Conahan was known for being quiet, even secretive, on and off the bench. His neighbors observed that in a community known for holiday parties and open houses, no one they knew had ever seen the inside of Judge Conahan's house. Raised in Hazleton, on the other side of the county from Wilkes Barre, Judge Conahan came from money and had a political pedigree. His father, who owned a funeral home, was Hazleton's mayor from 1962 to 1974. Despite their differences, the two men became close friends on the bench, connected, former colleagues say, by a similarly stern view of justice. In 2004, Judge Conahan bought the house next to Judge Ciavarella's in Mountain Top, a wealthy suburb of Wilkes-Barre, where Mr Powell also lives. Penn State football games and vacationing together in Florida. "They were pretty average guys," Frank Monaco, the superintendent of the Florida condominium building, said of the judges and Mr Powell. Though the judges and Mr Powell generally kept to themselves, Mr Monaco said, they lost that low profile in 2004 after Mr Powell got into a dispute with marina officials who wanted to end his slip lease. Mr Powell went to court to force the marina to let him keep his boat there, but he filed his motion in Luzerne County, not Florida. A colleague of Judge Conahan and Judge Ciavarella ruled in favor of Mr Powell, despite a protest from the marina's lawyer that the case should have been heard in Florida and that he could not attend the hearing because he had been given only one day's notice. "People at the marina thought that seemed like a real abuse of power," Mr Monaco said. The lawsuit was dropped after Mr Powell moved his boat to another marina. "You get enough power and you're bound to start abusing it, I suppose," Mr Monaco said. Troubling Trends There was never doubt about who had the power in Courtroom 4 in the Luzerne County Courthouse. Though courteous, even jocular, Judge Ciavarella ran hearings with breakneck efficiency, cutting lawyers off when they rambled, scolding them when they arrived unprepared. One courthouse worker recounted seeing a high school friend appear before Judge Ciavarella on a speeding charge. When the state trooper testified that he had clocked the man going 80 in a 55-mile-per-hour zone, the judge interrupted. But the juveniles being sentenced in that dim oak-paneled courtroom tended to be less lucky. Parents who arrived with their children typically left without them. "Your arguments in sentencing weren't persuasive," said Basil G Russin, the Luzerne County public defender, who represented many juveniles in Judge Ciavarella's court. While judges elsewhere in the state were shifting away from incarcerating juveniles for delinquency, Luzerne County was becoming infamous for imposing heavy sentences for minor infractions. Kurt Kruger, for example, was 17 when he was sent to a boot camp for five months in 2004 for being a lookout for a friend who was stealing DVDs from a Wal-Mart. DayQuawn Johnson was 13 when he was sent to a detention center for several days in 2006 for failing to appear at a hearing as a witness to a fight, even though his family had never been notified about the hearing and he had already told school officials that he had not seen anything. Judge Ciavarella had never made a secret about liking his justice swift and firm. Nicknamed Mr Zero Tolerance in the courthouse, he once put a father in jail after he could not pay court-imposed fees for his daughter, who the judge had previously locked up. Asked last year why he did not make a habit of telling juveniles of their r...