A former Pennsylvania judge convicted of sending juveniles to jail in exchange for monetary bribes will have his appeal paid for by taxpayers because he is considered impoverished. The irony abounds.
In an outrageous example of judicial misconduct, former Luzerne County juvenile court judge Mark Ciavarella was convicted in 2010 on 12 charges, including racketeering, conspiracy and money laundering in connection with the "Kids for Cash" scandal. Prosecutors accused the 61-year-old judge of accepting nearly $1 million from the developer of a for-profit detention facility in exchange for sending thousands of juveniles to the center on questionable charges.
Ciavarella was sentenced to 28 years in prison, and is currently living in a federal Illinois prison, according to Reuters.
Now, Ciavarella is allegedly so impoverished that the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that he must be allowed government-funded, court-appointed attorneys to handle his appeal.
Ciavarella reportedly used most of the bribery money to pay off debts and could no longer afford representation. However, his attorneys argued that their familiarity with the issues involved in the appeal would allow them to provide the best representation for the judge and asked to be appointed as government-funded attorneys.
Under the U.S. Criminal Justice Act, federal court-appointed attorneys are reportedly paid $125 per hour up to a $6,900 cap, according to Reuters.
“It’s not going to be popular with the public, but in many ways the public doesn’t believe in the constitutional right to court-appointed counsel,” said Ciavarella’s trial attorney and part-time chief of the Luzerne County Public Defender’s Office, Al Flora Jr. “It’s hard to convince the public that certain rights exist under the Constitution.”
- Right to Counsel Must Be Clear, 9th Circuit Court of Appeal Says (FindLaw’s Ninth Circuit blog)
- Does Right to Counsel Include Right to Change Counsel? (FindLaw’s Fourth Circuit blog)
- Supreme Court: Deadbeat Dads Have No Right to Counsel (FindLaw’s Decided)