PA Child Care lawsuits (re "kids for cash" scandal)


In 2009, US prosecutors charged former Pennsylvania judges with fraud and tax evasion in connection with receiving bribes for sending teenage offenders to two privately run juvenile facilities. The judges were found guilty. In a separate class action by families impacted by the bribe, the case is still ongoing.


In January 2009, US prosecutors charged former Pennsylvania judges, Mark Ciavarella Jr. of the Luzerne County Juvenile Court and Michael Conahan of the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas, with fraud and tax evasion in connection with receiving $2.6 million in kickbacks in return for sending teenage offenders to two privately-run juvenile facilities – PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care.  The judges allegedly accepted money from Robert Powell and Robert Mericle, co-owners of the juvenile detention facilities, in return for imposing harsh sentences on juveniles brought before their courts and ensuring that juvenile offenders were sent to PA Child Care facilities.  

In September 2009, a federal grand jury returned a 48-count indictment against the judges, including racketeering, extortion, bribery, money laundering, fraud and tax violations.  Judge Ciavarella was accused of routinely depriving youth defendants of their right to counsel and ordering teenage offenders into detention even when probation officers did not recommend it.  He was sentenced to 28 years in prison and was ordered to pay $1.17 million in restitution.  Judge Conahan was sentenced to 17 years in prison.  In May 2013, a US appeals court upheld all but one of the convictions of Mark Ciavarella.

In June 2009, Robert Powell was criminally charged in the Scranton District Court with failing to report a felony and being accessory to a conspiracy, and in July he pleaded guilty to both charges.  In September 2009, Robert Mericle, pleaded guilty to failing to disclose to the grand jury that he paid $2.15 million to the judges to secure their backing for the PA Child Care facilities.  In April 2014, Robert Mericle was sentenced to one year in prison, received a $250,000 fine and was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.

The children and the parents impacted by this “kids-for-cash” scheme filed a class action lawsuit in June 2009 against the judges, Powel, Mericle, PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care seeking monetary damages for the abuses they suffered.  In December 2011, the parties announced a partial settlement in this class action when Mericle agreed to pay $17.7 million to the plaintiffs.  In August 2015, the plaintiffs and Powell agreed on a settlement of $4.75 million.  The class actions against Ciavarella and Conahan are ongoing.

- "Pennsylvania Seeks to Close Books on "Kids for Cash" Scandal", 12 Aug 2015, Jon Schuppe, NBC News (USA)
- "Robert Mericle Sentenced To Prison For Role In "Kids For Cash" Scandal", 25 Apr 2014
- "Mericle agrees to $17M settlement", Dave Janoski, Times-Tribune [USA], 17 Dec 2011
- "“Kids for cash” judge sentenced to 28 years in prison", Global Post, 11 Aug 2011
- "Ciavarella Found Guilty on 12 of 39 Counts", Times Leader, 19 February 2011
- "Ex-jurists plea, still free", Terrie Morgan-Besecker, Times Leader, 16 Sep 2011
- "Ex-US judge pleads guilty to child prison scam", BBC News, 23 Jul 2010
- "Mericle pleads guilty in kids-for-cash scandal", Dave Janoski, Citizens Voice, 2 Sep 2009
- "Judges withdraw guilty pleas, Terrie Morgan-Besecker", Times Leader, 25 Aug 2009
- "Plea Agreement by 2 Judges Is Rejected in Pennsylvania", Ian Urbina, New York Times, 31 Jul 2009
- "Powell pleads guilty", Michael Sisak, Times Tribune, 1 Jul 2009

- Juvenile Law Center [counsel for victims]: Luzerne Kids-For-Cash Scandal (includes links to legal documents for class action)

- [PDF] USA v Michael T. Conahan and Mark A. Ciavarella US District Court for Middle District of Pennsylvania, 9 Sep 2009 [Indictment]
- [PDF] USA v Robert K.Mericle, US District Court for Middle District of Pennsylvania, 9 June 2009, 31 Jul 2009 [Plea agreement]
- [PDF] USA v Michael T. Conahan and Mark A. Ciavarella, US District Court for Middle District of Pennsylvania, 30 Jul 2009 [Memorandum and Order]
- [PDF] USA v Robert J.Powell, US District Court for Middle District of Pennsylvania, 9 Jun 2009 [Information]
- [PDF] USA v Michael T. Conahan and Mark A. Ciavarella, US District Court for Middle District of Pennsylvania, 26 Jan 2009 [Information]

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29 October 2012

[PDF] Corporate Legal Accountability Quarterly Bulletin - Issue 7

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

[Full text of October 2012 issue of the Corporate Legal Accountability Quarterly Bulletin. Refers to lawsuits against adidas, Amesys (part of Bull), Anadarko, Anglo Platinum (part of Anglo American), Areva, Blackwater, BP, CACI, Cameron International, Chevron, Copper Mesa Mining, Curacao Drydock, DynCorp, Esmor Correctional Services (part of Correctional Services Corporation), Ford, Global Horizons, Halliburton, L-3, PA Child Care, Paladin, Shell, SNCF, Texaco (part of Chevron), Transocean.]

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16 December 2011

Builder, locked-up youths reach $17 million settlement in Pa. ‘kids for cash’ lawsuit [USA]

Author: Associated Press

A developer at the center of one of the biggest judicial scandals in U.S. history has agreed to pay more than $17 million to settle a civil lawsuit filed by juveniles who were locked up in youth detention facilities built by his company. The settlement with Robert K. Mericle and Mericle Construction..., based in Wilkes-Barre, in northeast Pennsylvania, was announced Friday by lawyers for the juveniles and their parents. Federal prosecutors said a pair of judges took illegal payments from Mericle, whom the judges had tapped to build for-profit juvenile detention centers. Mericle pleaded guilty to failing to report a felony and awaits sentencing. The plaintiffs’ federal lawsuit also names former Luzerne County Judges Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella Jr., the detention centers and others. Those defendants have not settled. The state Supreme Court overturned thousands of juvenile convictions in the wake of the so-called “kids for cash” scandal, saying Ciavarella routinely trampled on youths’ constitutional rights.

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11 August 2011

Ciavarella Sentenced to 28 Years in Prison [USA]

Author: Zack Needles, Legal Intelligencer [USA]

...[F]ormer Luzerne County Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. was sentenced to...28 federal prison...Ciavarella read a prepared statement at the podium during...sentencing hearing in which he said he had been unfairly demonized by the prosecution and the public, claiming Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon A. Zubrod had ignited a public outcry when he used the term "kids-for-cash" to describe Ciavarella's crimes after Ciavarella agreed to plead guilty to honest services fraud for allegedly receiving a payment from the builder of two detention facilities to which the county sent juveniles...A former juvenile delinquency court judge, Ciavarella was alleged to have taken more than $2.8 million from the builder and former co-owner of two private juvenile detention facilities, PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care...Prosecutors alleged that money was the fruit of improper kickbacks and extortion. Ciavarella denied those allegations...

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