Legal Representation Required in Pennsylvania Juvenile Courts, Says State’s High Court

Juveniles appearing in delinquency proceedings in Pennsylvania will be required to have legal representation following an amendment to the commonwealth’s Rules of Juvenile Court Procedure by Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court. The change, effective March 1, follows the “kids for cash” scandal in Luzerne County, Pa. in which juvenile court judge Mark Ciavarella took kickbacks from the builder of two for-profit youth detention centers and routinely denied juveniles in his court their right to an attorney. The new rules say youth under the age of 14 must have an attorney present at all delinquency proceedings and children 14 years of age or older may only waive their right to counsel in very limited circumstances. Even then, the court must be satisfied the waiver was made knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily.

Pennsylvania Juvenile Judge is Sentenced to 28 Years in Prison

A Pennsylvania juvenile court judge was sentenced Thursday to 28 years in prison for accepting some $1 million in bribes from a builder of two juvenile detention centers. Judge Mark Ciavarella, Jr., 61, was convicted earlier of racketeering in a scheme where he sent juveniles as young as 10 to the detention facilities. Ciavarella apologized to the court before the sentence, but denied he incarcerated any juveniles in return for money. The federal prosecution in the case, however, referred to Ciavarella repeatedly during the trial as the “kids for cash” judge, describing him as “vicious and mean spirited.”

After the sentencing, Sandy Fonzo, the mother of Edward Kenzakoski III, who committed suicide years after being sent to detention by Ciavarella, told the Scranton Times-Tribune ,“I believe it was just. I believe it was right.”

The case prompted Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court to reverse out some 4,000 convictions of juveniles that were handed down by Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008.