In January 2009, state court judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan were indicted and charged with masterminding a kickback scheme in which they accepted payments from individuals and companies involved in the construction of private juvenile detention centers. The criminal charges cast a cloud over the adjudications of thousands of juveniles in Luzerne County and suggested that they were deprived of a fair tribunal. A number of civil suits, including two class actions, were filed in federal district court in the wake of the criminal charges, naming the by-now former judges, the individuals and entities involved in the detention centers, employees of the Juvenile Probation Department, the Juvenile Probation Department and Luzerne County. Elliott Greenleaf represented the County and its officials, and not the judges.
The Firm previously obtained dismissal of the claims against Luzerne County in the four initial lawsuits as well as two cases filed shortly thereafter. The court also denied efforts to amend complaints determined to be futile. Despite these substantial rulings from the District Court, a new complaint virtually copying the allegations that had previously been dismissed was filed in April 2011. The complaint named Luzerne County and three County officers, but thereafter did not make a single allegation about any of these defendants. Instead, plaintiffs simply claimed that all defendants were members of “an association in fact” and asserted that whatever one defendant did could be presumed to be the act of another. The Firm again moved for dismissal of the claims against Luzerne County and its officials, highlighting the previous rulings of the Court in the earlier juvenile detention center civil cases. Before the Court even had a chance to rule, and based solely upon the compelling arguments in the Firm’s brief, plaintiffs voluntarily withdrew their claims against the County and the County officers.