Juvenile Law Center and pro bono co-counsel Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller filed a federal class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on behalf of the children and families of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, arguing that former Luzerne County juvenile court judge Mark A. Ciavarella's unlawful adjudications and placements and the attendant "kids-for-cash" corruption scheme caused significant harm, including emotional stress and financial suffering.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages under federal civil rights laws and the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act against the two Luzerne County judges at the center of the scandal; the former co-owner of the not-for-profit juvenile detention centers who paid substantial sums of money to the former judges as part of the "kids-for-cash" scandal; the developer who built the facilities and also paid approximately $2 million to the former judges; the facilities themselves; and various "shell" corporations set up to serve as pass-throughs for the money. This case has been consolidated with other lawsuits seeking similar relief for children and families victimized by the corruption scandal in Luzerne County.
The defendants filed a variety of motions to dismiss the case. Nearly all of the defendants' motions to dismiss were denied. Federal District Court Judge A. Richard Caputo determined that the former judges could not be sued based on a failure to train or supervise the assistant district attorneys who appeared in Ciavarella's courtroom. In December 2011, Juvenile Law Center announced a partial settlement for over $17 million—which must receive court approval—between Robert K. Mericle and Mericle Construction, the developer, and counsel representing juveniles and parents of juveniles who appeared before former juvenile court judge Mark A. Ciavarella, Jr. The remaining defendants include Mark Ciavarella, Michael Conahan, Robert Powell, Vision Holdings, Mid-Atlantic Youth Services, PA Child Care, and Western PA Child Care.
On December 14, 2012, U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo gave final approval to a $17.75 million settlement in the Luzerne County, PA “kids for cash” cases with real estate developer Robert Mericle.
The settlement provides basic benefits ranging from $500 to $5,000, depending upon where and how long a juvenile was incarcerated. The settlement also provides additional “enhanced” benefits for children who experienced more harm than others.
Basic settlement provisions are as follows:
Approximately $8 million has been set aside in an Enhanced Benefits Fund which will be distributed based upon a point system - awarding points to youth who can provide documentation or other proof they were harmed more severely. Any child who suffered psychological or emotional harm for which he or she received documented treatment will receive a certain number of EBF points, depending on the severity of the harm. A dollar value per point has not yet been determined because EBF points are still being calculated.
Motions for Summary Judgment
Judicial Immunity Motions to Dismiss
Ciavarella Judicial Immunity Brief - July 27, 2009
Conahan Judicial and Legislative Immunity Motion - July 27, 2009
Order on Motions to Dismiss on Immunity Grounds - November 20, 2009
Plaintiffs' First Motion to Amend the Class Action Complaint
Motion to Amend Master Class Action Complaint - August 27, 2009
Brief in Support of Motion to Amend Master Class Action Complaint - September 10, 2009
Defendants' Brief in Opposition to Motion to Amend Master Class Action Complaint - September 28, 2009
Order Denying Motion to Amend Master Class Action Complaint - November 20, 2009
Plaintiffs' Second Motion to Amend the Class Action Complaint
Order Denying Second Motion to Amend Class Action Complaint - March 1, 2010
Motions to Dismiss
Defendant Powell's Motion to Dismiss - March 22, 2010
Private Facility Defendants' Motion to Dismiss - March 22, 2010
Private Facility Defendants' Brief in Support of Motion to Dismiss - March 22, 2010
Defendant Powell's Brief in Support of Motion to Dismiss - March 22, 2010
Mericle Defendants' Motion to Dismiss - March 22, 2010
Mericle Defendants' Brief in Support of Motion to Dismiss - March 22, 2010
Defendants' Joint Brief in Support of Motions to Dismiss - March 22, 2010
Defendant Luzerne County's Motion to Dismiss - April 1, 2010
Defendant Luzerne County's Brief in Support of Motion to Dismiss - April 1, 2010
Plaintiffs' Brief in Opposition to Motions to Dismiss - May 10, 2010
Defendant Powell's Motion to Dismiss Reply Brief - June 1, 2010
Defendants' Joint Motion to Dismiss Reply Brief - June 1, 2010
Mericle Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Reply Brief - June 1, 2010
Order Granting Defendant Luzerne County's Motion to Dismiss - July 9, 2010
Order Regarding Motion to Dismiss - August 24, 2010