The fallout from the scandal arising from the conduct of Luzerne County Common Pleas Judges Mark Ciavarella, the former President Judge, and Judge Michael Conahan is expanding. Earlier this year Judges Ciavarella and Conahan pled guilty to charges of corruption. Specifically, the Judges pled guilty to charges that they took $2.6 million in payments from the former owner of juvenile detention centers.
On April 2, the FBI seized 79 Uninsured and Underinsured (UM/UIM) case files from the Luzerne County Courthouse. This seizure is part of the FBI’s investigation into allegations that the Court’s procedures to appoint neutral arbitrators in these matters led to case fixing.
Most recently, on April 7, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court invoked its’ rarely used King’s Bench authority to review a $3.5 million dollar defamation verdict. The original trial was presided over by Judge Ciavarella without a jury. “The Supreme Court’s exercise of its king’s bench power is done very rarely. It’s done only when the Court sees some issue of great public importance that needs to be addressed” according to a spokesman for the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts who was quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The extent of this scandal is not yet known. For example, a colleague of mine here at Stark & Stark is currently investigating a domestic relations case in which a spouse may have received hundreds of thousands of dollars less then they were entitled to in a property settlement dispute presided over by Judge Ciavarella. I will continue to keep the readers of this blog informed on this and other related cases. Should you have questions regarding this case, or other cases of legal malpractice, please feel free to contact me at 267.907.9600.