On July 9, 2010, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania granted Defendant Luzerne County’s Motion to Dismiss All Claims Against It By All Plaintiffs. The Legal Intelligencer reported that “The ruling is a victory for Luzerne County’s lawyers- Timothy T. Myers, John G. Dean, Deborah H. Simon and Gregory S. Voshell of Elliott Greenleaf & Siedzikowski.”
The ruling by United States District Court Judge A. Richard Caputo rejected Plaintiff’s counsels’ legal arguments that the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and Fifth Circuit held that a district attorney could be a county actor while training assistant district attorneys. The Court’s decision is well reasoned and is in accord with recent United States Supreme Court precedent.
Northeast Pennsylvania’s Times-Leader reported that “The order finalized a prior ruling by [Judge] Caputo that dismissed the county and several offices, including the public defenders and district attorney’s offices, from any liability. Caputo had ruled the county could not be held liable for actions taken by [Judges] Ciavarella and Conahan because they were employees of the state, not the county.”
John Dean, the Managing Shareholder of Elliott Greenleaf’s Wilkes-Barre and Scranton offices, was extensively interviewed by the media about the case. The Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice quoted Mr. Dean, that “the unheard victims were the taxpayers of Luzerne County. Now the taxpayers aren’t going to be burdened with this lawsuit going forward.”
The Class Action Plaintiffs argued that Luzerne County should be held liable because the district attorneys, public defenders and probation officers observed the state court juvenile judge sentence juvenile offenders to private correctional facilities at an unusually high rate without properly telling them about their Constitutional right to counsel. A consolidated group of hundreds of Individual Plaintiffs argued that Luzerne County should be held liable for the budgetary actions of the state court Juvenile Judge and the state court President Judge, and for providing funding to the state court juvenile system that enabled the judges to engage in an alleged conspiracy to receive kickbacks for sending juvenile offenders to private detention facilities.
The Elliott Greenleaf trial team had previously successfully argued that the amendments are legally futile because Plaintiffs could never state a claim against Luzerne County, because the judges, district attorneys, public defenders and probation officers are all state actors – not County actors – while they are inside the court room. After an extensive oral argument, the Court agreed that only a majority of the County Commissioners are the final policy-makers for the County.