How the system is supposed to work
Former Luzerne County Judge Mark A. Ciavarella's campaign to pose himself as a victim ran into another major obstacle Thursday, when a three-judge panel of the U.S. Third Circuit of Appeals rejected his appeal of his 28-year federal prison term.
The federal appellate court is in Philadelphia, but light years distant from the kangaroo court conducted by Mr. Ciavarella when he trampled the constitutional rights of thousands of juveniles who appeared before him in Luzerne County Court. He and former Judge Michael T. Conahan, who is serving a 17-year federal sentence, received more than $2 million in kickbacks from developers of privately operated juvenile detention centers. The case came to be known as "kids for cash."
Mr. Ciavarella bristled at the shorthand, contending that there was no quid pro quo in his conveyor belt of detention orders.
Sadly for him, his own denials led directly to his long sentence. U.S. District Judge Edwin M. Kosik, of the U.S. District Court in Scranton, rejected Mr. Ciavarella's plea agreement, which included a sentence just over one-quarter as long as he ultimately received, partially because Mr. Ciavarella refused to take responsibility.
In his appeal, Mr. Ciavarella contended that Judge Kosik was biased for the prosecution, but the appellate judges disagreed. They agreed that Judge Kosik should not have personally answered seven letters he had received about the case, but said that the content of the letters did not forfeit his impartiality.
The principal contrast between Mr. Ciavarella's journey through the federal justice system, and that which he inflicted upon children in his courtroom, is that he received fair hearings every step of the way, with the assistance of counsel and public scrutiny of the prosecution's case.
His circumstances spring from how the system is supposed to work.