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Luzerne County judicial scandal

January 28 roundup

by Walter Olson on January 28, 2012

  • Oh, American Academy of Pediatrics, why are you so consistently wrong? On videogames, on food-ad bans, on guns, CPSIA
  • New book by Annette Fuentes, Lockdown High: When the Schoolhouse Becomes a Jailhouse [John Harris, Guardian]
  • There are genuine problems with some countries’ international adoption practices, but should UNICEF really be pushing toward a “leave the kids in orphanages” alternative? [Nick Gillespie on Reason documentary to be released tomorrow]
  • At expense of both federalism and religious accommodation, bill entitled “Every Child Deserves a Family Act” (ECDFA) would impose anti-bias rules on state adoption and foster care programs [Washington Blade]
  • Cash-for-kids Pennsylvania judge: “Former Luzerne judge Conahan sentenced to 17.5 years” [Times-Tribune, our earlier coverage]
  • “Met a guy who works at my old summer camp. Bunks still do raids on other bunks, but their counselors have to file raid forms first. How sad.” [@adamlisberg]
  • Sex offender registry horror story #14,283 [Skenazy]
  • “Safety rules rob pupils of hands-on science, say MPs” [Independent, U.K.]
  • Gee, who could’ve predicted that? NJ’s aggressive “anti-bullying” law leads to new problems [NYT, Greenfield, PoL, NJLRA] Rapid growth in bullying law assisted by push from Obama administration [WSJ Law Blog, Kenneth Marcus/Federalist Society, Bader]

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February 24 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 24, 2011

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Before the sensational revelations of corruption in juvenile justice sentencing, investigators had been tipped off about suspicious judicial handling of car-crash arbitrations and suits filed by attorneys in the Pennsylvania county. Those are rumored to be among the focus points of ongoing probes directed at attorneys as well as judges and those in other branches of government. [Legal Intelligencer]

January 8 roundup

by Walter Olson on January 8, 2010

  • Pa. cash-for-kids judge allegedly came up with number of months for length of sentence based on how many birds could be seen out his office window [Legal Ethics Forum, with notes on ornithomancy or bird divination through history]; “The Pa. Judicial Scandal: A Closer Look at the Victims” [WSJ Law Blog on Philadelphia Inquirer report]; feds charge third county judge with fraud [Legal Intelligencer, more]; state high court overturns convictions of 6,500 kids who appeared before Ciavarella and Conahan [Greenfield]; judge orders new trial in Ciavarella’s eyebrow-raising $3.5 million defamation verdict against Citizens’ Voice newspaper in Wilkes-Barre; some web resources on scandal [Sullum, scroll to end]
  • Says drinking was part of her job: “Stripper’s DUI Case Survives Club’s Latest Attack” [OnPoint News, earlier]
  • Hundreds of lawyers rally to protest Sheriff Arpaio, DA Thomas [Coyote, Greenfield, ABA Journal, Mark Bennett interview with Phoenix attorney Jim Belanger, earlier here, here, and here]. In deposition, Arpaio says he hasn’t read book he co-authored in 2008 on immigration [Balko, Coyote] And as I mentioned a while back, Maricopa D.A. Andrew Thomas turns out to be the very same person as the Andrew Peyton Thomas toward whom I was uncharitable in this Reason piece quite a while back.
  • Ted Roberts, of the famous sex-extortion case, begins serving five-year term [AP/Dallas News, KENS]
  • New Hampshire lawsuit over leak of documents to mortgage gadfly site raises First Amendment issues [Volokh, earlier here and here]
  • Did someone say paid witness? Judge tosses decade-old animal rights case vs. Ringling circus [Orlando Sentinel, Zincavage] Bonus: Ron Coleman, Likelihood of Confusion, on PETA and Michelle Obama;
  • How’d foreclosure tax get into Connecticut budget when both parties claimed to oppose it? [Ct. News Junkie]
  • Best-legal-blog picks of Ryan Perlin, who writes “Generation J.D.” for the Maryland Daily Record, include one that’s “humorous though sometimes disheartening”, while La Roxy at Daily Asker salutes a certain website as “Lurid, i.e. satisfying”. Thanks!

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August 20 roundup

by Walter Olson on August 20, 2009

May 7 roundup

by Walter Olson on May 7, 2009

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April 2 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 2, 2009

  • Topic we’ve covered before: should the MCAT exam for prospective M.D.s grant extra time to applicants with learning disabilities? [KevinMD]
  • Virginia blogger Waldo Jaquith fighting subpoena seeking identities of anonymous commenters [Citizen Media Law, earlier]
  • A free marketer’s case for why fired professor Ward Churchill might deserve to win his case against the University of Colorado [Coyote Blog]
  • She videotaped cops arresting her son. They took her camera. Could she have it back, please? [Ken @ Popehat]
  • Despite Obama campaign hints of Second Amendment truce, lower-level appointees far from gun-friendly [Dave Kopel] And new State Department legal advisor Harold Koh pushed international curbs on small-arms trade [Fonte, NRO "Corner"]
  • U.K.: “Man Who Attempted Suicide Sues Hospital that Saved Him” [Telegraph via Lowering the Bar]
  • National media jump on Luzerne County, Pa. judicial scandal, some details I hadn’t seen in earlier coverage [NYT, ABA Journal]
  • Atlanta jury — of 11 women and one lone guy — awards $2.3 million for circumcision injury [Fulton County Daily Report]

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March 21 roundup

by Walter Olson on March 21, 2009

  • A triumph for good sense, good policy, and the Constitution: Supreme Court declines to disturb 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, thus ending NYC’s wrongful and unfair lawsuit against gun makers [AP/Law.com] Interestingly, the Obama administration joined its predecessor in urging that the law’s constitutionality not be questioned [Alphecca] One of my fond memories is of giving the lead presentation to the House Judiciary Committee at a hearing on the bill during its drive for passage.
  • “Tinkering With DWI Evidence Costs NY Judge and Law Prof Their Jobs” [ABA Journal; Buffalo, N.Y.]
  • Coalition of media organizations urges First Circuit to reverse judge’s “truth-no-defense” defamation ruling, but the Circuit denies en banc rehearing [Bayard/Citizen Media Law and sequel; earlier]
  • Car-crash arbitration-fixing angle heating up in probe of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania judicial scandals [ABA Journal]
  • ACORN helping with the Census? Based on their voter work, we can be sure they’ll give it that 110% effort [Jammie Wearing Fool]
  • To protect the public, why do you ask? Cook County, Ill. sheriff engages in “constant surveillance of Craigslist’s erotic services” [Patrick at Popehat]
  • Imposed-contract provisions mean that Employee Free Choice Act is “not as bad as thought. It’s worse!” [Kaus]
  • West Virginia lawmaker proud of introducing ban-Barbie bill: “If I’ve helped just 10 kids out with this, to me it was worth it” [AP/Charleston Gazette-Mail, earlier]

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The Philadelphia Inquirer and its columnist Daniel Rubin on the Luzerne County juvenile justice scandal (via Obbie). One detail I hadn’t known: after teenagers were sent on minor or dubious charges to the detention centers from which Judges Ciavarella and Conahan were getting kickbacks, their parents were made to pay the costs of their detention, their wages sometimes garnished when they fell behind.

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March 3 roundup

by Walter Olson on March 3, 2009

  • “Illinois trial lawyers take a swing at youth baseball” [Curt Mercadente, Illinois Civil Justice League]
  • Luzerne County, Pa. scandal: “Court Filing Says Former Judge Met With Felons Twice a Month” [Legal Intelligencer]
  • You’d think Obama could find some person without major-league trial lawyer connections for the cabinet seat on health, but you’d be wrong [Wood, PoL, on Kathleen Sebelius, and earlier on Tom Daschle]
  • Remember the many times when town officials do or say something arguably racist and the U.S. Department of Justice opens an investigation? Doesn’t seem to happen with the Detroit City Council [Nolan Finley, Detroit News]
  • Copyright enforcement doesn’t scale and that’s another reason its future looks bleak [David Post @ Volokh]
  • Thought it wasn’t going to happen? “Some Passengers Mull Lawsuits Over Life-Saving US Airways Crash-Landing” [ABA Journal, WSJ law blog, earlier here and here]
  • Sex shop that suddenly appeared in genteel Old Town Alexandria, near D.C. is sort of the zoning equivalent of a spite fence [WaPo]
  • Claim of British researchers: lawyers’ IQ-point edge over general public has declined over last decade [The Lawyer]

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February 26 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 26, 2009

  • “God convinces woman to withdraw her voodoo-related lawsuit” [Minneapolis Star-Tribune via Obscure Store]
  • Federal, state judges differ on whether wildlife officials can be sued over fatal Utah bear attack [Heller/OnPoint News]
  • GPS helped trip him up: highest-paid Schenectady cop sure seems to spend a lot of time off patrol in a certain apartment [Greenfield]
  • More coverage of Luzerne County, Pa. corrupt-judge scandal, including reputed mobster link [Legal Intelligencer/Law.com, ABA Journal, earlier here and here]
  • Reductio ad absurdum of laws dictating where released sex offenders can live: proposal to keep them from living near each other [Giacalone and sequel]
  • Defamation suits: “What happens when it’s the plaintiff that is anonymous, and wants to stay that way?” [Ron Coleman]
  • Scalia: “Honest Services” fraud statute lacks any “coherent limiting principle” to restrain runaway prosecution [Grossman/PoL, Kerr/Volokh, Hills/Prawfsblawg]
  • Because they’d never enact a law except to deal with a real problem: “Kentucky Prohibits First Responders from Dueling” [Lowering the Bar]

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February 19 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 19, 2009

  • Surprising origins of federal corruption probe that tripped up Luzerne County, Pa. judges who were getting kickbacks on juvenile detention referrals: insurers had noted local pattern of high car-crash arbitration sums and sniffed collusion between judges and plaintiff’s counsel [Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, Legal Intelligencer] Court administrator pleads to theft [Times Leader] Judge Ciavarella had secret probation parole program [PAHomepage]
  • We get accolades: “Overlawyered.com has a new look. Great new format, same good stuff,” writes ex-securities lawyer Christopher Fountain, whose real estate blog I’m always recommending to people even if they live nowhere near his turf of Greenwich, Ct. [For What It's Worth]
  • “Fla. Jury Awards $8M to Family of Dead Smoker in Philip Morris Case” [ABA Journal; for more on the complicated background of the Engle case, which renders Florida a unique environment for tobacco litigation, start here]
  • Scott Greenfield vs. Ann Bartow vs. Marc Randazza on the AutoAdmit online-bathroom-scrawl litigation, all in turn playing off a David Margolick piece in Portfolio;
  • Eric Turkewitz continues his investigations of online solicitation by lawyers following the Buffalo crash of Continental Flight #3407 [NY Personal Injury Law Blog, Mon. and Tues. posts; earlier]
  • One vital element of trial management: keep track of how many jurors there are [Anne Reed, Deliberations]
  • Public Citizen vs. public health: Sidney Wolfe may succeed in getting the FDA to ban Darvon, and the bone marrow transplant nurse isn’t happy about that [Dr. Wes, KevinMD, more on Wolfe here]
  • “Baseball Star’s [uninfected] Ex Seeks $15M for Fear of AIDS” [OnPoint News, WaPo, New York Mets star Roberto Alomar]

Two senior judges in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, have taken a plea agreement under which they will serve seven years in prison. The judges are “alleged to have pocketed $2.6 million in payments from juvenile detention center operators”. After helping the center operators secure a county contract, according to their critics, Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and Michael T. Conahan then proceeded to railroad hundreds of kids to the centers on petty charges to provide the operators with a clientele to serve (Philadelphia Inquirer, Legal Intelligencer, Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader and more via Instapundit)

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