Filed Date: Feb. 13, 2009
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This case grew out of the criminal misconduct of two state court juvenile judges who sent hundreds of children to juvenile detention facilities because of bribes paid by the companies that ran those detention facilities. On February 13, 2009, the plaintiffs--children who had been adjudicated delinquent found to have violated their probation and parents of those children--brought this class action lawsuit against the judges. The plaintiffs, represented by multiple firms, sought damages against the defendants for violations of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961, et seq. and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, and assigned to Judge Richard Caputo.
Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that the two judges ("Judge Defendants") received compensation from privately-owned juvenile detention facilities ("Provider Defendants") by agreeing to place children into care of those facilities instead of the county juvenile detention facility. The plaintiffs also alleged that the Judge Defendants received payments from construction companies that built the private juvenile detention facilities ("Construction Defendants"). The plaintiffs further alleged that the Defendant Judges removed funding from the County budget for the county juvenile detention centers. Other defendants who were allegedly involved in the financial transactions were the spouses of the Judge Defendants, the owner of the privately owned juvenile detention facilities, his holding company, and his law firm ("Powell Defendants"). The plaintiffs also filed suit against the County itself and several county employees.
Over the next several months, the complaint was amended with additional plaintiffs and was consolidated with two putative class actions, Conway v. Conahan and H.T. v. Ciavarella. The case was also consolidated with five other civil actions.
Various defendants filed motions to dismiss throughout 2009. On November 20, 2009, the Court granted the Defendant Judges' motions to dismiss claims related to their courtroom conduct on the basis of judicial immunity and denied their motion for all other claims. The Court denied a defendant psychologist's motion to dismiss on the grounds of judicial immunity because his behavior was administrative and not quasi-judicial. Next, the Court granted in part a motion to dismiss for the Provider Defendants on the basis that they were complying with a court order, but denied the motion for claims related to allegations of abuse. The Court also denied the county's motion to dismiss finding that the county was not subject to the immunity doctrines that applied to its judges or commissioners. 2009 WL 4051974.
The plaintiffs continued to amend their complaints with additional parties and information, and the parties continued to engage in arguments on several motions to dismiss over the next two years. The Provider Defendants sought a preliminary injunction enjoining the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and its agents from enforcing orders directing the defendants to expunge records related to this case, which was granted by the Court on June 9, 2010. 2010 WL 2367672.
Over the next year and a half, most of the defendants were dismissed, leaving the Judge Defendants, Provider Defendants, Construction Defendants, Powell Defendants, the county, and several county employees. On July 9, 2010, the Court dismissed the claim against the County because the plaintiffs failed to allege a policy or custom that created a cause of action for municipal liability. 2010 WL 2746394. On August 24, 2010, the Court dismissed all claims against the spouses of the Judge Defendants because the plaintiffs failed to allege actual participation in the conspiracy. The Court dismissed the substantive due process claim against the Provider Defendants and Construction Defendants because the plaintiffs did not allege deliberate conduct that the Defendants sought to harm the parent-child relationship; however, the Court found that the plaintiffs sufficiently stated all other claims against them. 2010 WL 3398995. On August 24, 2010, the Court dismissed all claims against the defendant county psychologist because the plaintiffs failed to allege facts that supported a finding that he violated their rights. 2010 WL 3398992.
On November 30, 2011, the Court dismissed additional § 1983 claims on interference with familial relations against the Provider Defendants and Construction Defendants because the plaintiffs failed to allege facts supporting their claim that the defendants deliberately directed their conduct to interfere the parent-child relationships. The Court dismissed § 1985 claims because the plaintiffs were not a discrete and insular minority. The Court also dismissed the Sixth and Eighth Amendment claims, the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment claims, the §§ 1985 and 1986 claims, and the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act claim of the parents against the Chief Probation Officer. While it granted dismissal of all claims related to sentencing recommendations against the Defendant Chief Probation Officer on the grounds of qualified-judicial immunity, it denied dismissal of the claims related to her investigative role. Finally, the Court dismissed all claims against the County, the County Department of Juvenile Probation, and County officials. 2011 WL 6003916.
However, what was left was the core of the case: the Court denied dismissal of the punitive damage claims and the remaining § 1983 claims against the defendants.
On December 16, 2011, the plaintiffs and the Construction Defendants moved for preliminary approval of a class action settlement. The Court approved the settlement on December 14, 2012. 2012 WL 6552134. For the purposes of the settlement, the classes were certified as:
1. all juveniles who appeared before former Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judge Mark A. Ciavarella between January 1, 2003 and May 28, 2008 who were adjudicated or placed by Ciavarella ("Juvenile Settlement Class"); andThe Construction Defendants established a cash settlement fund of $17,750,000. Class Counsel were allowed to apply for up to 30% of the settlement amount in addition to litigation expenses. After payment of the above, taxes, and payment to the escrow agent, the Cash Settlement Fund was distributed to class members who turned in a proof of claim. Following this settlement, the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their claims against the Construction Defendants on December 26, 2012. 2012 WL 6552134.
2. all parents and/or guardians of all juveniles who appeared before former Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judge Mark A. Ciavarella between January 1, 2003 and May 28, 2008 and who, in connection with their child's appearance: (i) made payments or had wages, social security or other entitlements garnished or withdrawn; (ii) had costs, fees, interest and/or penalties assessed against them or their child; (iii) suffered any loss of companionship and/or familial integrity ("Parent Settlement Class").
Throughout 2012, the plaintiffs and Provider Defendants, Judge Defendants, and Powell Defendants continued to engage in discovery. On March 21, 2012, the Court denied the Provider Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings that argued several of the plaintiffs' claims were untimely. Instead, the Court found that the statute of limitations was tolled because the Court was still deciding on the validity of class certification. In July 2012, the Court also denied several motions and cross-motions for partial summary judgment by the plaintiffs and Provider Defendants because disputed facts remained.
On February 1, 2013, the plaintiffs moved to certify the class, and the Court granted their motion on May 14, 2013. There were two classes based on which violations the children experienced, Class A and Class B. Class A included a class for the Violation of Right to Impartial Tribunal:
"All children who were adjudicated delinquent or referred to placement by Ciavarella between 2003 and May 2008, whose adjudications were vacated, expunged, and dismissed with prejudice by orders of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court dated October 29, 2009 or March 29, 2010. See in re Expungement of Juvenile Records and Vacatur of Luzerne County Juvenile Court Consent Decrees or Adjudications from 2003-2008, No. 81-MM-2008 (Pa.)"Class A also included two sub-classes. Subclass A.1 for Violations of Right to Counsel:
"All children in Class A who were adjudicated delinquent or referred to placement by Ciavarella without counsel and/or without colloquies on the record that informed them of their rights and the consequences of waiving those rights, before either waiving counsel and/or pleading guilty, during the time between 2003 and May 2008."Subclass A.2 for False Imprisonment:
"All children in Class A who were referred to placement at PA Child Care and/or Western PA Child Care by Ciavarella between 2003 and May 2008."Class B included children who experienced Violations of the RICO Act:
"All children who were adjudicated delinquent or referred to placement by Ciavarella who paid fees, costs, fines, restitution, or any other monetary charges associated with their adjudications and/or placements during the time period between 2003 and May 2008, as well as all children's parents or guardians who paid fees, costs, fines, restitution, or any other monetary charges associated with their children's adjudications and/or placements during the same time period."2013 WL 2042369. The Plaintiffs, Judge Defendants, and Powell Defendants continued to engage in discovery throughout 2013. The Court granted default judgment against one of the Judge Defendants and several companies alleged to have participated in the wire transfers. The Court granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs against the other Judge Defendant on January 9, 2014, finding him liable for all issues that were not protected by judicial immunity. 2014 WL 70092.
On May 30, 2014, the plaintiffs and Provider Defendants moved for settlement and class certification. The Court granted final approval of the settlement on July 7, 2014. For the purposes of settlement, the classes were settled as:
"a. all juveniles who appeared before former Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judge Mark A. Ciavarella between January 1, 2003 and May 28, 2008 who were adjudicated or placed by Ciavarella (the "Juvenile Settlement Class")' andThe Provider Defendants established a $2,500,000 settlement fund. Following payment of court-approved costs and fees, the remaining amount was separated into a juvenile fund (70% of remaining funds), parent fund (15% of remaining funds), and holdback fund (15% of remaining funds). The holdback fund was to be held back and used to pay costs of appeals until all final accounting was complete for the cash settlement fund. 2014 WL 12638876.
b. all parents and/or guardians of all juveniles who appeared before former Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judge Mark A. Ciavarella between January 1, 2003 and May 28, 2008 and who, in connection with their child's adjudication or placement:
(i) made payments or had wages, social security or other entitlements garnished or withdrawn;
(ii) paid costs, fees, interest and/or penalties in their own names;
(iii) suffered any loss of companionship and/or familial integrity (the "Parent Settlement Class"), and
(iv) who were not fully reimbursed as a result of claims made in connection with the Mericle Settlement, defined in the MSA."
The Plaintiffs and Powell Defendants continued to engage in discovery. On March 10, 2015, the parties moved for settlement, which the Court approved on December 21, 2015. The classes were defined as:
A. All juveniles who appeared before former Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. between January 1, 2003 and May 28, 2008 who were adjudicated delinquent or placed by Ciavarella ("Juvenile Settlement Class").The Powell Defendants agreed to establish a cash settlement fund of $4,750,000. The Powell Defendants also agreed to make an additional payment of up to $2,750,000 based on Powell's net worth. The fund was established first to pay attorneys' fees and costs awarded by the Court, next to pay all settlement administration costs and costs of notice related to the settlement, and lastly, to distribute all remaining funds to the settlement class members who submitted a proof of claim form. 2015 WL 9268445.
B. All parents and/or guardians of all juveniles in paragraph (A) who, as a result of their child's adjudication of delinquency or placement by Judge Ciavarella between January 1, 2003 and May 28, 2008: (i) made payments in their own names or had wages, social security or other entitlements in their own names garnished or withdrawn; (ii) had costs, fees, interest and/or penalties in their own names assessed against them or their child; and/or (iii) suffered any loss of companionship and/or familial integrity ("Parent Settlement Class") and were not fully reimbursed as a result of claims made in connection with the Mericle Settlement and/or the Provider Settlement, defined in the Agreement.
At this point, the case was fully litigated: all the parties either were dismissed or settled. However, the Court retained jurisdiction for the enforcement and interpretation of the settlement. On December 7, 2017, the Court granted in part the plaintiffs' motion to interpret the Powell settlement agreement in order to determine the amount of time necessary to complete an evaluation of Powell's net worth and ordered the evaluation be completed by February 6, 2018. On June 6, 2018, the Court granted in part plaintiffs' motion to interpret the Powell settlement agreement, again related to the completion of the net worth evaluation. The Court required that the evaluator provide missing, relevant financial information within twenty-one days. Litigation over the net worth professional fees continued until January, 2019, when they were finally resolved.
On May 25, 2020, the case was reassigned to Chief Judge Christopher C. Conner. He issued an order on April 13, 2020 requiring the parties to file a joint status report apprising the court of which claims had settled and which remained open. The parties filed this report on April 24, 2020, stating that the Mericle, Provider, and Powell settlements had all been completed. The outstanding claims were those that plaintiffs intended to pursue against former Judges Michael T. Conahan and Mark A. Ciavarella for damages associated with existing judgments against the two.
The court ordered plaintiffs to file the appropriate motion to proceed with the remaining claims by June 1, 2020. As of May 27, 2020, the case remains open and ongoing.
Cade Boland (6/29/2018)
Alex Moody (5/27/2020)
For PACER's information on parties and their attorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/4373155/parties/wallace-v-powell/
Adelsberger, Donna L. (Pennsylvania)
Andrisani, Nathan J (Pennsylvania)
Bednarek, Nicole F. (Pennsylvania)
Benson, Laura E. (Pennsylvania)
Borland, Kimberley D. (Pennsylvania)
Caputo, A. Richard (Pennsylvania)
See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/4373155/wallace-v-powell/
Last updated June 30, 2023, 3:15 a.m.
State / Territory: Pennsylvania
Filing Date: Feb. 13, 2009
Case Ongoing: Yes
Children who had been adjudicated delinquent, found to have violated their probation and parents of those children
Public Interest Lawyer: Yes
Filed Pro Se: No
Class Action Sought: Yes
Class Action Outcome: Granted
Causes of Action:
Prevailing Party: Plaintiff
Nature of Relief:
Source of Relief:
Form of Settlement:
Amount Defendant Pays: 25000000
Order Duration: 2012 - None
Content of Injunction:
Type of Facility: