Judges Guilty of violating their sworn duty do not have the right to sit on the bench in any court in judgement of anyone, whether Supreme Court judges or those in charge of lesser courts. The cozy relationship some U.S. Supreme Court judges have with corporate big shots may not make those judges guilty of bribery, of accepting bribes, but sometimes the activity can grow so egregious it is impossible not to prosecute judges, and not only take them off the bench, but send them to jail.
U.S. Supreme Court judges Antoin Scalia and Clarence Thomas have violated their sworn duty to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest (attending Koch brothers’-sponsored events, among other questionable activities); but even their scandalous ethical shortcomings pale compared to those of former barrister Mark Ciavarella. A former Pennsylvania juvenile court judge, Ciavarella was sentenced to 28 years in prison for taking bribes to send juveniles to a for-profit detention facility. Put on your puke bib for this one.
Prosecutors said that Ciavarella accepted nearly $1 million from a developer who built the prison facility.
Kids for Cash Scam
In the scam known as “kids for cash,” according to lawyers for the children, thousands of juveniles were shipped to a private center on minor or questionable charges by Ciavarella and another former judge, Michael Conahan.
“Mr. Ciavarella abused his position of trust and inflicted a deep and lasting wound on the community he vowed to service,” U.S. Attorney Peter Smith said after the sentencing.
Smith added that the judges concealed their financial interests for personal profits.
Ciavarella was convicted in February of 12 charges, including racketeering conspiracy and money laundering. He testified that the money he received from Robert Mericle, the facility’s developer, amounted to “finder fees” and had no connection to the fact that he was a sentencing judge.
Ciavarella’s attorney, Al Flora, said he would appeal.
Conahan, formerly the president judge of the Luzerne County court, pled guilty to racketeering conspiracy. He was sentenced to 17 years in prison and fined $900,000. Conahan’s criminal activity ran deep, as prosecutors said he closed the publicly owned Luzerne County Juvenile Detention Facility and helped arrange financing for the private facility. Oh, the humanity!
Prosecutors said that both de-frocked judges obstructed efforts to investigate the county’s use of the private facility and they also blocked efforts to disclose their financial relationships with the owners of the juvenile center.
A Reuter’s Story also added that the U.S. Attorney’s office indicated upwards of 30 local and state government officials and contractors have been convicted so far or are awaiting trial in the same case.
While the objectionable ethical behavior of Scalia and Thomas is not as obviously egregious as the behaviors of these two Pennsylvania judges, such sensational news should do nothing to change the ethical questions at the heart of the behavior of the two Supreme Court justices. Their decisions, too, affect individuals, businesses, profits. It is at least somewhat hopeful to see some light being shined on judicial corruption.
What sort of a system do we have if we can’t even hold our judges to the highest possible ethical standards?