In the wake of Luzerne County’s “kids for cash” scandal, court advocates say Pennsylvania’s judicial discipline system needs reforms. Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts released a report Wednesday outlining recommended changes.
In 2006, the Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania received an anonymous complaint of irregularities that included an increase in the number of juvenile incarcerations. But the board failed to investigate. Three years later, two Luzerne County judges pleaded guilty to charges related to taking kickbacks in exchange for sending kids to juvenile detention centers.
Shira Goodman, from Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, says the role of the Judicial Conduct Board needs to be strengthened and clarified.
“These charges are serious enough; they went to the very heart of what went on in the courtroom. These kids didn’t have attorneys; people were sent to jail without a hearing,” said Goodman. “And we think that there must be a very clear procedure that judges know about that the public knows about and that the board is committed to pursuing if it gets these kind of credible allegations but hasn’t yet done a full investigation.”
Goodman says those who do file a complaint with the board should get an explanation of the investigation and its results. Some of the changes recommended by the report would require constitutional changes, others could be made by the board itself and others could be instituted by the state Supreme Court.